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The  publishers  will  be  pleased  to  sendy  upon  re- 
quest ^  an  illustrated  catalogue  setting  forth  the 
purpose  and  ideals  of  The  Modem  Library^  and 
describing  in  detail  each  volume  in  the  series, 
(\Every  reader  of  books  will  find  titles  he  has  been 
looking  f  or ^  attractively  printed,  and 
at  an  unusually  low  price 


THE  GARDEN  PARTY 


BY 

KATHERINE    MANSFIELD 


^'3R^^'^ 


BENNETT   A.    CERF    •    DONALD   S.    KLOPFER 

THE    MODERN    LIBRARY 

NEW      YORK 


Copy  right  y  1922,  by  Alfred  a.  knopf,  inc. 


First  Modern  Library  Edition 
1931 


Manufactured  in  the  United  States  of  America 

Bound  for  THE  MODERN  LIBRARY    b'^  H.  WoIff 


TO 

JOHN  MIDDLETON  MURRY 


CONTENTS 

At  the  Bay 

I 

The  Garden  Party 

59 

The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

83 

Mr.  and  Mrs.  Dove 

116 

The  Young  Girl 

130 

Life  of  Ma  Parker 

140 

Marriage  a  la  Mode 

151 

The  Voyage 

168 

Miss  Brill 

182 

Her  First  Ball 

190 

The  Singing  Lesson 

201 

The  Stranger 

211 

Bank  Holiday 

231 

An  Ideal  Family 

237 

The  Lady's-maid 

248 

AT  THE  BAY 


VERY  early  morning.  The  sun  was  not  yet 
risen,  and  the  whole  of  Crescent  Bay  was 
hidden  under  a  white  sea-mist.  The  big 
bush-covered  hills  at  the  back  were  smothered. 
You  could  not  see  where  they  ended  and  the  pad- 
docks and  bungalows  began.  The  sandy  road  was 
gone  and  the  paddocks  and  bungalows  the  other 
side  of  it;  there  were  no  white  dunes  covered  with 
reddish  grass  beyond  them;  there  was  nothing  to 
mark  which  was  beach  and  where  was  the  sea.  A 
heavy  dew  had  fallen.  The  grass  was  blue.  Big 
drops  hung  on  the  bushes  and  just  did  not  fall; 
the  silvery,  fluffy  tol-toi  was  limp  on  its  long  stalks, 
and  all  the  marigolds  and  the  pinks  in  the  bungalow 
gardens  were  bowed  to  the  earth  with  wetness. 
Drenched  were  the  cold  fuchsias,  round  pearls  of 
dew  lay  on  the  flat  nasturtium  leaves.  It  looked 
as  though  the  sea  had  beaten  up  softly  in  the  dark- 
ness, as  though  one  immense  wave  had  come  rip- 
pling, rippling — how  far?  Perhaps  if  you  had 
waked  up  in  the  middle  of  the  night  you  might  have 
seen  a  big  fish  flicking  in  at  the  window  and  gone 
again.  .  .  . 


At  the  Bay 

Ah-Aah !  sounded  the  sleepy  sea.  And  from  the 
bush  there  came  the  sound  of  little  streams  flow- 
ing, quickly,  lightly,  slipping  between  the  smooth 
stones,  gushing  into  ferny  basins  and  out  again; 
and  there  was  the  splashing  of  big  drops  on  large 
leaves,  and  something  else — what  was  it? — 
a  faint  stirring  and  shaking,  the  snapping  of  a 
twig  and  then  such  silence  that  it  seemed  some  one 
was  listening. 

Round  the  corner  of  Crescent  Bay,  between  the 
piled-up  masses  of  broken  rock,  a  flock  of  sheep 
came  pattering.  They  were  huddled  together,  a 
small,  tossing,  woolly  mass,  and  their  thin,  stick- 
like legs  trotted  along  quickly  as  if  the  cold  and  the 
quiet  had  frightened  them.  Behind  them  an  old 
sheep-dog,  his  soaking  paws  covered  with  sand,  ran 
along  with  his  nose  to  the  ground,  but  carelessly, 
as  if  thinking  of  something  else.  And  then  in  the 
rocky  gateway  the  shepherd  himself  appeared. 
He  was  a  lean,  upright  old  man.  In  a  frieze  coat 
that  was  covered  with  a  web  of  tiny  drops,  velvet 
trousers  tied  under  the  knee,  and  a  wide-awake 
with  a  folded  blue  handkerchief  round  the  brim. 
One  hand  was  crammed  into  his  belt,  the  other 
grasped  a  beautifully  smooth  yellow  stick.  And  as 
he  walked,  taking  his  time,  he  kept  up  a  very  soft 
light  whistling,  an  airy,  far-away  fluting  that 
sounded  mournful  and  tender.  The  old  dog  cut 
an  ancient  caper  or  two  and  then  drew  up  sharp, 
ashamed  of  his  levity,  and  walked  a  few  dignified 

2 


At  the  Bay 

paces  by  his  master's  side.  The  sheep  ran  forward 
in  little  pattering  rushes;  they  began  to  bleat,  and 
ghostly  flocks  and  herds  answered  them  from  under 
the  sea.  **Baa!  Baaa !"  For  a  time  they  seemed 
to  be  always  on  the  same  piece  of  ground.  There 
ahead  was  stretched  the  sandy  road  with  shallow 
puddles;  the  same  soaking  bushes  showed  on  either 
side  and  the  same  shadowy  palings.  Then  some- 
thing immense  came  into  view;  an  enormous  shock- 
haired  giant  with  his  arms  stretched  out.  It  was  the 
big  gum-tree  outside  Mrs.  Stubbs's  shop,  and  as 
they  passed  by  there  was  a  strong  whiff  of  euca- 
lyptus. And  now  big  spots  of  light  gleamed  in  the 
mist.  The  shepherd  stopped  whistling;  he  rubbed 
his  red  nose  and  wet  beard  on  his  wet  sleeve  and, 
screwing  up  his  eyes,  glanced  in  the  direction  of  the 
sea.  The  sun  was  rising.  It  was  marvellous  how 
quickly  the  mist  thinned,  sped  away,  dissolved 
from  the  shallow  plain,  rolled  up  from  the  bush 
and  was  gone  as  if  in  a  hurry  to  escape;  big  twists 
and  curls  jostled  and  shouldered  each  other  as  the 
silvery  beams  broadened.  The  far-away  sky — a 
bright,  pure  blue — was  reflected  in  the  puddles,  and 
the  drops,  swimming  along  the  telegraph  poles, 
flashed  into  points  of  light.  Now  the  leaping,  glit- 
tering sea  was  so  bright  it  made  one's  eyes  ache 
to  look  at  it.  The  shepherd  drew  a  pipe,  the  bowl 
us  small  as  an  acorn,  out  of  his  breast  pocket, 
fumbled  for  a  chunk  of  speckled  tobacco,  pared  off  a 
few  shavings  and  stuffed  the  bowl.    He  was  a  grave, 

3 


At  the  Bay 

fine-looking  old  man.  As  he  lit  up  and  the  blue 
smoke  wreathed  his  head,  the  dog,  watching,  looked 
proud  of  him. 

"Baa  I  Baaa !''  The  sheep  spread  out  into  a  fan. 
They  were  just  clear  of  the  summer  colony  before 
the  first  sleeper  turned  over  and  lifted  a  drowsy 
head;  their  cry  sounded  in  the  dreams  of  little 
children  .  .  .  who  lifted  their  arms  to  drag  down, 
to  cuddle  the  darling  little  woolly  lambs  of  sleep. 
Then  the  first  inhabitant  appeared;  it  was  the  Bur- 
nells'  cat  Florrie,  sitting  on  the  gatepost,  far  too 
early  as  usual,  looking  for  their  milk-girl.  When 
she  saw  the  old  sheep-dog  she  sprang  up  quickly, 
arched  her  back,  drew  in  her  tabby  head,  and  seemed 
to  give  a  little  fastidious  shiver.  "Ugh!  What 
a  coarse,  revolting  creature  !'^  said  Florrie.  But  the 
old  sheep-dog,  not  looking  up,  waggled  past,  fling- 
ing out  his  legs  from  side  to  side.  Only  one  of  his 
ears  twitched  to  prove  that  he  saw,  and  thought 
her  a  silly  young  female. 

The  breeze  of  morning  lifted  in  the  bush  and 
the  smell  of  leaves  and  wet  black  earth  mingled  with 
the  sharp  smell  of  the  sea.  Myriads  of  birds  were 
singing.  A  goldfinch  flew  over  the  shepherd's  head 
and,  perching  on  the  tiptop  of  a  spray,  it  turned 
to  the  sun,  ruffling  its  small  breast  feathers.  And 
now  they  had  passed  the  fisherman's  hut,  passed 
the  charred-looking  little  whare  where  Leila  the 
milk-girl  lived  with  her  old  Gran.  The  sheep 
strayed  over  a  yellow  swamp  and  Wag,  the  sheep- 

4 


At  the  Bay 

dog,  padded  after,  rounded  them  up  and  headed 
them  for  the  steeper,  narrower  rocky  pass  that  led 
out  of  Crescent  Bay  and  towards  Daylight  Cove. 
**Baa!  Baa!"  Faint  the  cry  came  as  they  rocked 
along  the  fast-drying  road.  The  shepherd  put 
away  his  pipe,  dropping  it  into  his  breast-pocket  so 
that  the  little  bowl  hung  over.  And  straightway 
the  soft  airy  whistling  began  again.  Wag  ran  out 
along  a  ledge  of  rock  after  something  that  smelled, 
and  ran  back  agan  disgusted.  Then  pushing,  nudg- 
ing, hurrying,  the  sheep  rounded  the  bend  and  the 
shepherd  followed  after  out  of  sight. 

II 

A  few  moments  later  the  back  door  of  one  of  the 
bungalows  opened,  and  a  figure  in  a  broad-striped 
bathing  suit  flung  down  the  paddock,  cleared 
the  stile,  rushed  through  the  tussock  grass  into  the 
hollow,  staggered  up  the  sandy  hillock,  and  raced 
for  dear  life  over  the  big  porous  stones,  over  the 
cold,  wet  pebbles,  on  to  the  hard  sand  that  gleamed 
like  oil.  Splish-splosh  I  Splish-splosh !  The  wa- 
ter bubbled  round  his  legs  as  Stanley  Burnell  waded 
out  exulting.  First  man  in  as  usual!  He'd  beaten 
them  all  again.  And  he  swooped  down  to  souse 
his  head  and  neck. 

**Hail  brother!  All  hail.  Thou  Mighty  One!" 
A  velvety  bass  voice  came  booming  over  the  water. 

Great  Scott  1     Damnation  take  it !    Stanley  lifted 

s 


At  the  Bay 

up  to  see  a  dark  head  bobbing  far  out  and  an  arm 
lifted.  It  was  Jonathan  Trout — there  before  him! 
^'Glorious  morning!"  sang  the  voice. 

"Yes,  very  fine!"  said  Stanley  briefly.  Why  the 
dickens  didn't  the  fellow  stick  to  his  part  of  the  sea  ? 
Why  should  he  come  barging  over  to  this  exact 
spot?  Stanley  gave  a  kick,  a  lunge  and  struck  out, 
swimming  overarm.  But  Jonathan  was  a  match 
for  him.  Up  he  came,  his  black  hair  sleek  on  his 
forehead,  his  short  beard  sleek. 

"I  had  an  extraordinary  dream  last  night!"  he 
shouted. 

What  was  the  matter  with  the  man?  This  mania 
for  conversation  irritated  Stanley  beyond  words. 
And  it  was  always  the  same — always  some  piffle 
about  a  dream  he'd  had,  or  some  cranky  idea  he'd 
got  hold  of,  or  some  rot  he'd  been  reading.  Stanley 
turned  over  on  his  back  and  kicked  with  his  legs  till 
he  was  a  living  waterspout.  But  even  then  .  .  . 
*'I  dreamed  I  was  hanging  over  a  terrifically  high 
cliff,  shouting  to  some  one  below."  You  would  be ! 
thought  Stanley.  He  could  stick  no  more  of  it. 
He  stopped  splashing.  "Look  here,  Trout,"  he 
said,  "I'm  in  rather  a  hurry  this  morning." 

"You're  what?"  Jonathan  was  so  surprised — 
or  pretended  to  be — that  he  sank  under  the  water, 
then  reappeared  again  blowing. 

"All  I  mean  is,"  said  Stanley,  "I've  no  time  to — 
to — to  fool  about.     I  want  to  get  this  over.     I'm 

6 


At  the  Bay 

In  a  hurry.  I've  work  to  do  this  morning- 
see?" 

Jonathan  was  gone  before  Stanley  had  finished. 
"Pass,  friend!"  said  the  bass  voice  gently,  and  he 
slid  away  through  the  water  with  scarcely  a  ripple. 
.  .  .  But  curse  the  fellow!  He'd  ruined  Stanley's 
bathe.  What  an  unpractical  idiot  the  man  was! 
Stanley  struck  out  to  sea  again,  and  then  as  quickly 
swam  in  again,  and  away  he  rushed  up  the  beach. 
He  felt  cheated. 

Jonathan  stayed  a  little  longer  in  the  water. 
He  floated,  gently  moving  his  hands  like  fins,  and 
letting  the  sea  rock  his  long,  skinny  body.  It  was 
curious,  but  In  spite  of  everything  he  was  fond  of 
Stanley  Burnell.  True,  he  had  a  fiendish  desire  to 
tease  him  sometimes,  to  poke  fun  at  him,  but  at 
bottom  he  was  sorry  for  the  fellow.  There 
was  something  pathetic  In  his  determination  to 
make  a  job  of  everything.  You  couldn't  help  feel- 
ing he'd  be  caught  out  one  day,  and  then  what  an 
almighty  cropper  he'd  come!  At  that  moment  an 
Immense  wave  lifted  Jonathan,  rode  past  him,  and 
broke  along  the  beach  with  a  joyful  sound.  What 
a  beauty!  And  now  there  came  another.  That 
was  the  way  to  live — carelessly,  recklessly,  spending 
oneself.  He  got  on  to  his  feet  and  began  to  wade 
towards  the  shore,  pressing  his  toes  Into  the  firm, 
wrinkled  sand.  To  take  things  easy,  not  to  fight 
against  the  ebb  and  flow  of  life,  but  to  give  way 

7 


At  the  Bay 

to  it — that  was  what  was  needed.  It  was  this  ten- 
sion that  was  all  wrong.  To  live — to  live!  And 
the  perfect  morning,  so  fresh  and  fair,  basking  in 
the  light,  as  though  laughing  at  its  own  beauty, 
seemed  to  whisper,  ^'Why  not?" 

But  now  he  was  out  of  the  water  Jonathan  turned 
blue  with  cold.  He  ached  all  over;  it  was  as  though 
some  one  was  wringing  the  blood  out  of  him.  And 
stalking  up  the  beach,  shivering,  all  his  muscles 
tight,  he  too  felt  his  bathe  was  spoilt.  He'd  stayed 
in  too  long. 

Ill 

Beryl  was  alone  in  the  living-room  when  Stan- 
ley appeared,  wearing  a  blue  serge  suit,  a  stiff 
collar  and  a  spotted  tie.  He  looked  almost  uncannily 
clean  and  brushed;  he  was  going  to  town  for  the 
day.  Dropping  into  his  chair,  he  pulled  out  his 
watch  and  put  it  beside  his  plate. 

"I've  just  got  twenty-five  minutes,"  he  said. 
"You  might  go  and  see  if  the  porridge  is  ready, 
Beryl?" 

"Mother's  just  gone  for  it,"  said  Beryl.  She 
sat  down  at  the  table  and  poured  out  his  tea. 

"Thanks!"  Stanley  took  a  sip.  "Hallo!"  he 
said  in  an  astonished  voice,  "you've  forgotten  the 
sugar." 

"Oh,  sorry!"  But  even  then  Beryl  didn't  help 
him;  she  pushed  the  basin  across.     What  did  this 

8 


At  the  Bay 

mean?  As  Stanley  helped  himself  his  blue  eyes 
widened;  they  seemed  to  quiver.  He  shot  a  quick 
glance  at  his  sister-in-law  and  leaned  back. 

"Nothing  wrong,  Is  there?"  he  asked  carelessly, 
fingering  his  collar. 

Beryl's  head  was  bent;  she  turned  her  plate  In 
her  fingers. 

^'Nothing,"  said  her  light  voice.  Then  she  too 
looked  up,  and  smiled  at  Stanley.  "Why  should 
there  be?" 

"0-oh!  No  reason  at  all  as  far  as  I  know.  I 
thought  you  seemed  rather " 

At  that  moment  the  door  opened  and  the  three 
little  girls  appeared,  each  carrying  a  porridge  plate. 
They  were  dressed  alike  in  blue  jerseys  and  knickers; 
their  brown  legs  were  bare,  and  each  had  her  hair 
plaited  and  pinned  up  in  what  was  called  a  horse's 
tail.  Behind  them  came  Mrs.  Fairfield  with  the 
tray. 

"Carefully,  children,"  she  warned.  But  they 
were  taking  the  very  greatest  care.  They  loved 
being  allowed  to  carry  things.  "Have  you  said 
good  morning  to  your  father?" 

"Yes,  grandma."  They  settled  themselves  on 
the  bench  opposite  Stanley  and  Beryl. 

"Good  morning,  Stanley!"  Old  Mrs.  Fairfield 
gave  him  his  plate. 

"Morning,  mother!     How's  the  boy?" 

"Splendid!  He  only  woke  up  once  last  night. 
What    a    perfect    morning!"     The    old    woman 

9 


At  the  Bay 

paused,  her  hand  on  the  loaf  of  bread,  to  gaze  out 
of  the  open  door  Into  the  garden.  The  sea  sounded. 
Through  the  wide-open  window  streamed  the  sun 
on  to  the  yellow  varnished  walls  and  bare  floor. 
Everything  on  the  table  flashed  and  glittered.  In 
the  middle  there  was  an  old  salad  bowl  filled  with 
yellow  and  red  nasturtiums.  She  smiled,  and  a 
look  of  deep  content  shone  In  her  eyes. 

"You  might  cut  me  a  slice  of  that  bread,  mother,'* 
said  Stanley.  'Tve  only  twelve  and  a  half  minutes 
before  the  coach  passes.  Has  any  one  given  my 
shoes  to  the  servant  girl?" 

"Yes,  they're  ready  for  you."  Mrs.  Fairfield 
was  quite  unruffled. 

"Oh,  Kezia!  Why  are  you  such  a  messy  child!" 
cried  Beryl  despairingly. 

"Me,  Aunt  Beryl?"  Kezia  stared  at  her.  What 
had  she  done  now?  She  had  only  dug  a  river  down 
the  middle  of  her  porridge,  filled  it,  and  was  eating 
the  banks  away.  But  she  did  that  every  single  morn- 
ing, and  no  one  had  said  a  word  up  till  now. 

"Why  can't  you  eat  your  food  properly  like  Isabel 
and  Lottie?"     How  unfair  grown-ups   are! 

"But  Lottie  always  makes  a  floating  Island,  don't 
you,  Lottie?" 

"I  don't,"  said  Isabel  smartly.  "I  just  sprinkle 
mine  with  sugar  and  put  on  the  milk  and  finish  it. 
Only  babies  play  with  their  food." 

Stanley  pushed  back  his  chair  and  got  up. 

"Would  you  get  me  those  shoes,  mother?     And, 

lO 


At  the  Bay 

Beryl,  If  youVe  finished,  I  wish  you'd  cut  down  to 
the  gate  and  stop  the  coach.  Run  in  to  your 
mother,  Isabel,  and  ask  her  where  my  bowler  hat's 
been  put.  Wait  a  minute — have  you- children  been 
playing  with  my  stick?" 

''No,  father!" 

"But  I  put  It  here."  Stanley  began  to  bluster. 
*'I  remember  distinctly  putting  It  in  this  corner. 
Now,  who's  had  it?  There's  no  time  to  lose. 
Look  sharp!     The  stick's  got  to  be  found." 

Even  Alice,  the  servant-girl,  was  drawn  into  the 
chase.  "You  haven't  been  using  It  to  poke  the 
kitchen  fire  with  by  any  chance?" 

Stanley  dashed  into  the  bedroom  where  Linda 
was  lying.  "Most  extraordinary  thing.  I  can't 
keep  a  single  possession  to  myself.  They've  made 
away  with  my  stick,  now!" 

"Stick,  dear?  What  stick?"  Linda's  vagueness 
on  these  occasions  could  not  be  real,  Stanley  de- 
cided.    Would  nobody  sympathize  with  him? 

"Coach!  Coach,  Stanley!"  Beryl's  voice  cried 
from  the  gate. 

Stanley  waved  his  arm  to  Linda.  "No  time  to 
say  good-bye!"  he  cried.  And  he  meant  that  as  a 
punishment  to  her. 

He  snatched  his  bowler  hat,  dashed  out  of  the 
house,  and  swung  down  the  garden  path.  Yes, 
the  coach  was  there  waiting,  and  Beryl,  leaning 
over  the  open  gate,  was  laughing  up  at  somebody 
or  other  just  as  if  nothing  had  happened.     The 

II 


At  the  Bay 

heartlessness  of  women !  The  way  they  took  it  for 
granted  It  was  your  job  to  slave  away  for  them 
while  they  didn't  even  take  the  trouble  to  see  that 
your  walking-stick  wasn't  lost.  Kelly  trailed  his 
whip  across  the  horses. 

"Good-bye,  Stanley,"  called  Beryl,  sweetly  and 
gaily.  It  was  easy  enough  to  say  good-bye !  And 
there  she  stood,  idle,  shading  her  eyes  with  her  hand. 
The  worst  of  it  was  Stanley  had  to  shout  good-bye 
too,  for  the  sake  of  appearances.  Then  he  saw  her 
turn,  give  a  little  skip  and  run  back  to  the  house. 
She  was  glad  to  be  rid  of  him! 

Yes,  she  was  thankful.  Into  the  living-room 
she  ran  and  called  *'He's  gone!"  Linda  cried 
from  her  room:  ''Beryl!  Has  Stanley  gone?"  Old 
Mrs.  Fairfield  appeared,  carrying  the  boy  in  his 
little  flannel  coatee. 

"Gone?" 

"Gone!" 

Oh,  the  relief,  the  difference  it  made  to  have  the 
man  out  of  the  house.  Their  very  voices  were 
changed  as  they  called  to  one  another;  they  sounded 
warm  and  loving  and  as  if  they  shared  a  secret. 
Beryl  went  over  to  the  table.  "Have  another  cup 
of  tea,  mother.  It's  still  hot."  She  wanted,  some- 
how, to  celebrate  the  fact  that  they  could  do  what 
they  liked  now.  There  was  no  man  to  disturb  them; 
the  whole  perfect  day  was  theirs. 

"No,  thank  you,  child,"  said  old  Mrs.  Fairfield, 
but  the  way  at  that  moment  she  tossed  the  boy  up 

12 


At  the  Bay 

and  said  "a-goos-a-goos-a-ga !"  to  him  meant  that 
she  felt  the  same.  The  little  girls  ran  into  the 
paddock  like  chickens  let  out  of  a  coop. 

Even  Alice,  the  servant-girl,  washing  up  the 
dishes  in  the  kitchen,  caught  the  infection  and  used 
the  precious  tank  water  in  a  perfectly  reckless 
fashion. 

*'Oh,  these  men!''  said  she,  and  she  plunged  the 
teapot  into  the  bowl  and  held  it  under  the  water 
even  after  it  had  stopped  bubbling,  as  if  it  too  was 
a  man  and  drowning  was  too  good  for  them. 


IV 

"Wait  for  me,  Isa-bel!  Kezia,  wait  for  me!" 
There  was  poor  little  Lottie,  left  behind  again, 
because  she  found  it  so  fearfully  hard  to  get  over 
the  stile  by  herself.  When  she  stood  on  the  first 
step  her  knees  began  to  wobble;  she  grasped  the 
post.  Then  you  had  to  put  one  leg  over.  But 
which  leg?  She  never  could  decide.;  And  when 
she  did  finally  put  one  leg  over  with  a  sort  of  stamp 
of  despair — then  the  feeling  was  awful.  She  was 
half  in  the  paddock  still  and  half  in  the  tussock 
grass.  She  clutched  the  post  desperately  and  lifted 
up  her  voice.     "Wait  for  me!" 

"No,  don't  you  wait  for  her,  Kezia!"  said  Isabel. 
"She's  such  a  little  silly.  She's  always  making  a 
fuss.  Come  on!"  And  she  tugged  Kezia's  jersey. 
"You  can  use  my  bucket  if  you  come  with  me,"  she 

13 


At  the  Bay 

said  kindly.  "It's  bigger  than  yours."  But  Kezia 
couldn't  leave  Lottie  all  by  herself.  She  ran  back 
to  her.  By  this  time  Lottie  was  very  red  in  the 
face  and  breathing  heavily. 

"Here,  put  your  other  foot  over,"  said  Kezia. 

"Where?" 

Lottie  looked  down  at  Kezia  as  if  from  a  moun- 
tain height. 

"Here  where  my  hand  is."  Kezia  patted  the 
place. 

"Oh,  there  do  you  mean!"  Lottie  gave  a  deep 
sigh  and  put  the  second  foot  over. 

*'Now — sort  of  turn  round  and  sit  down  and 
slide,"  said  Kezia. 

"But  there's  nothing  to  sit  down  on,  Kezia,"  said 
Lottie. 

She  managed  it  at  last,  and  once  it  was  over  she 
shook  herself  and  began  to  beam. 

"I'm  getting  better  at  climbing  over  stiles,  aren't 
I,  Kezia?" 

Lottie's  was  a  very  hopeful  nature. 

The  pink  and  the  blue  sunbonnet  followed  Isabel's 
bright  red  sunbonnet  up  that  sliding,  slipping  hill. 
At  the  top  they  paused  to  decide  where  to  go  and 
to  have  a  good  stare  at  who  was  there  already. 
Seen  from  behind,  standing  against  the  skyline,  ges- 
ticulating largely  with  their  spades,  they  looked 
like  minute  puzzled  explorers. 

The  whole  family  of  Samuel  Josephs  was  there 
already  with  their  lady-help,  who  sat  on  a  camp-stool 

14 


At  the  Bay 

and  kept  order  with  a  whistle  that  she  wore  tied 
round  her  neck,  and  a  small  cane  with  which  she  di- 
rected operations.  The  Samuel  Josephs  never 
played  by  themselves  or  managed  their  own  game. 
If  they  did,  it  ended  in  the  boys  pouring  water 
down  the  girls'  necks  or  the  girls  trying  to  put  little 
black  crabs  into  the  boys'  pockets.  So  Mrs.  S.  J. 
and  the  poor  lady-help  drew  up  what  she  called  a 
*'brogramme"  every  morning  to  keep  them  "abused 
and  out  of  bischief."  It  was  all  competitions  or 
races  or  round  games.  Everything  began  with  a 
piercing  blast  of  the  lady-help's  whistle  and  ended 
with  another.  There  were  even  prizes — large, 
rather  dirty  paper  parcels  which  the  lady-help  with 
a  sour  little  smile  drew  out  of  a  bulging  string  kit. 
The  Samuel  Josephs  fought  fearfully  for  the  prizes 
and  cheated  and  pinched  one  another's  arms — they 
were  all  expert  pinchers.  The  only  time  the  Bur- 
nell  children  ever  played  with  them  Kezia  had  got  a 
prize,  and  when  she  undid  three  bits  of  paper  she 
found  a  very  small  rusty  button-hook.  She  couldn't 
understand  why  they  made  such  a  fuss.   .   .  . 

But  they  never  played  with  the  Samuel  Josephs 
now  or  even  went  to  their  parties.  The  Samuel 
Josephs  were  always  giving  children's  parties  at  the 
Bay  and  there  was  always  the  same  food.  A  big 
washhand  basin  of  very  brown  fruit-salad,  buns  cut 
into  four  and  a  washhand  jug  full  of  something  the 
lady-help  called  "Limonadear."  And  you  went 
away  in  the  evening  with  half  the  frill  torn  off  your 

15 


At  the  Bay 

frock  or  something  spilled  all  down  the  front  of 
your  open-work  pinafore,  leaving  the  Samuel  Jo- 
sephs leaping  like  savages  on  their  lawn.  No! 
They  were  too  awful. 

On  the  other  side  of  the  beach,  close  down  to  the 
water,  two  little  boys,  their  knickers  rolled  up, 
twinkled  like  spiders.  One  was  digging,  the  other 
pattered  In  and  out  of  the  water,  filling  a  small 
bucket.  They  were  the  Trout  boys,  Pip  and  Rags. 
But  Pip  was  so  busy  digging  and  Rags  was  so  busy 
helping  that  they  didn't  see  their  little  cousins  until 
they  were  quite  close. 

*'Look!"  said  Pip.  "Look  what  I've  discov- 
ered." And  he  showed  them  an  old,  wet,  squashed- 
looking  boot.     The  three  little  girls  stared. 

''Whatever  are  you  going  to  do  with  it?"  asked 
Kezia. 

"Keep  it,  of  course!"  Pip  was  very  scornful. 
"It's  a  find— see?" 

Yes,  Kezia  saw  that.     All  the  same  ... 

"There's  lots  of  things  burled  in  the  sand,"  ex- 
plained Pip.  "They  get  chucked  up  from  wrecks. 
Treasure.     Why — you  might  find — ■ — " 

"But  why  does  Rags  have  to  keep  on  pouring 
water  in?"  asked  Lottie. 

"Oh,  that's  to  moisten  it,"  said  Pip,  "to  make 
the  work  a  bit  easier.     Keep  it  up,  Rags." 

And  good  little  Rags  ran  up  and  down,  pouring 
in  the  water  that  turned  brown  like  cocoa. 

"Here,  shall  I  show  you  what  I  found  yesterday?** 
i6 


At  the  Bay 

said  Pip  mysteriously,  and  he  stuck  his  spade  into 
the  sand.     "Promise  not  to  tell." 

They  promised. 

*'Say,  cross  my  heart  straight  dinkum.** 

The  little  girls  said  it. 

Pip  took  something  out  of  his  pocket,  rubbed  it 
a  long  time  on  the  front  of  his  jersey,  then  breathed 
on  it  and  rubbed  it  again. 

"Now  turn  round!"  he  ordered. 

They  turned  round. 

"All  look  the  same  way!     Keep  still!     Now!" 

And  his  hand  opened;  he  held  up  to  the  light 
something  that  flashed,  that  winked,  that  was  a  most 
lovely  green. 

"It's  a  nemeral,"  said  Pip  solemnly. 

"Is  it  really,  Pip?"     Even  Isabel  was  impressed. 

The  lovely  green  thing  seemed  to  dance  in  Pip's 
fingers.  Aunt  Beryl  had  a  nemeral  in  a  ring,  but  it 
was  a  very  small  one.  This  one  was  as  big  as  a  star 
and  far  more  beautiful. 


As  the  morning  lengthened  whole  parties  ap- 
peared over  the  sand-hills  and  came  down  on  the 
beach  to  bathe.  It  was  understood  that  at  eleven 
o'clock  the  women  and  children  of  the  summer 
colony  had  the  sea  to  themselves.  First  the  women 
undressed,  pulled  on  their  bathing  dresses  and  cov- 
ered their  heads  in  hideous  caps  like  sponge  bags; 

17 


At  the  Bay 

then  the  children  were  unbuttoned.  The  beach  was 
strewn  with  little  heaps  of  clothes  and  shoes;  the 
big  summer  hats,  with  stones  on  them  to  keep  them 
from  blowing  away,  looked  like  immense  shells. 
It  was  strange  that  even  the  sea  seemed  to  sound 
differently  when  all  those  leaping,  laughing  figures 
ran  into  the  waves.  Old  Mrs.  Fairfield,  in  a  lilac 
cotton  dress  and  a  black  hat  tied  under  the  chin, 
gathered  her  little  brood  and  got  them  ready.  The 
little  Trout  boys  whipped  their  shirts  over 
their  heads,  and  away  the  five  sped,  while  their 
grandma  sat  with  one  hand  in  her  knitting-bag 
ready  to  draw  out  the  ball  of  wool  when  she  was 
satisfied  they  were  safely  in. 

The  firm  compact  little  girls  were  not  half  so  brave 
as  the  tender,  delicate-looking  little  boys.  Pip  and 
Rags,  shivering,  crouching  down,  slapping  the  water, 
never  hesitated.  But  Isabel,  who  could  swim 
twelve  strokes,  and  Kezia,  who  could  nearly  swim 
eight,  only  followed  on  the  strict  understanding  they 
were  not  to  be  splashed.  As  for  Lottie,  she  didn't 
follow  at  all.  She  liked  to  be  left  to  go  In  her  own 
way,  please.  And  that  way  was  to  sit  down  at  the 
edge  of  the  water,  her  legs  straight,  her  knees 
pressed  together,  and  to  make  vague  motions  with 
her  arms  as  if  she  expected  to  be  wafted  out  to  sea. 
But  when  a  bigger  wave  than  usual,  an  old  whiskery 
one,  came  lolloping  along  in  her  direction,  she  scram- 
bled  to  her  feet  with  a  face  of  horror  and  flew  up  the 
beach  again. 

i8 


At  the  Bay 

**Here,  mother,  keep  those  for  me,  will  you?* 

Two  rings  and  a  thin  gold  chain  were  dropped 
into  Mrs.  Fairfield's  lap. 

*'Yes,  dear.     But  aren't  you  going  to  bathe  here  ?" 

*'No-o,"  Beryl  drawled.  She  sounded  vague. 
"I'm  undressing  farther  along.  I'm  going  to  bathe 
with  Mrs.  Harry  Kember." 

"Very  well."  But  Mrs.  Fairfield's  lips  set. 
She  disapproved  of  Mrs.  Harry  Kember.  Beryl 
knew  it. 

Poor  old  mother,  she  smiled,  as  she  skimmed  over 
the  stones.  Poor  old  mother!  Old!  Oh,  what 
joy,  what  bliss  it  was  to  be  young.   .  .  . 

"You  look  very  pleased,"  said  Mrs.  Harry  Kem- 
ber. She  sat  hunched  up  on  the  stones,  her  arms 
round  her  knees,  smoking. 

"It's  such  a  lovely  day,"  said  Beryl,  smiling  down 
at  her. 

"Oh,  my  dearP^  Mrs.  Harry  Kember's  voice 
sounded  as  though  she  knew  better  than  that.  But 
then  her  voice  always  sounded  as  though  she  knew 
something  better  about  you  than  you  did  yourself. 
She  was  a  long,  strange-looking  woman  with  narrow 
hands  and  feet.  Her  face,  too,  was  long  and  nar- 
row and  exhausted-looking;  even  her  fair  curled 
fringe  looked  burnt  out  and  withered.  She  was  the 
only  woman  at  the  Bay  who  smoked,  and  she  smoked 
incessantly,  keeping  the  cigarette  between  her  lips 
while  she  talked,  and  only  taking  it  out  when  the 
ash  was  so  long  you  could  not  understand  why  it 

19 


At  the  Bay 

did  not  fall.  When  she  was  not  playing  bridge — 
she  played  bridge  every  day  of  her  life — she  spent 
her  time  lying  In  the  full  glare  of  the  sun.  She 
could  stand  any  amount  of  It;  she  never  had  enough. 
All  the  same,  It  did  not  seem  to  warm  her. 
Parched,  withered,  cold,  she  lay  stretched  on  the 
stones  like  a  piece  of  tossed-up  driftwood.  The 
women  at  the  Bay  thought  she  was  very,  very  fast. 
Her  lack  of  vanity,  her  slang,  the  way  she  treated 
men  as  though  she  was  one  of  them,  and  the  fact 
that  she  didn't  care  twopence  about  her  house  and 
called  the  servant  Gladys  '^Glad-eyes,"  was  disgrace- 
ful. Standing  on  the  veranda  steps  Mrs.  Kember 
would  call  In  her  indifferent,  tired  voice,  "I  say, 
Glad-eyes,  you  might  heave  me  a  handkerchief  if 
I've  got  one,  will  you?"  And  Glad-eyes,  a  red  bow 
in  her  hair  instead  of  a  cap,  and  white  shoes,  came 
running  with  an  impudent  smile.  It  was  an  absolute 
scandal!  True,  she  had  no  children,  and  her  hus- 
band. .  .  .  Here  the  voices  were  always  raised; 
they  became  fervent.  How  can  he  have  married 
her?  How  can  he,  how  can  he?  It  must  have 
been  money,  of  course,  but  even  then ! 

Mrs.  Kember's  husband  was  at  least  ten  years 
younger  than  she  was,  and  so  incredibly  handsome 
that  he  looked  like  a  mask  or  a  most  perfect  Illus- 
tration In  an  American  novel  rather  than  a  man. 
Black  hair,  dark  blue  eyes,  red  lips,  a  slow  sleepy 
smile,  a  fine  tennis  player,  a  perfect  dancer,  and 
with  It  all  a  mystery.     Harry  Kember  was  like  a 

20 


At  the  Bay 

man  walking  in  his  sleep.  Men  couldn't  stand  him, 
they  couldn't  get  a  word  out  of  the  chap;  he  Ignored 
his  wife  just  as  she  Ignored  him.  How  did  he  live? 
Of  course  there  were  stories,  but  such  stories !  They 
simply  couldn't  be  told.  The  women  he'd  been 
seen  with,  the  places  he'd  been  seen  In  .  .  .  but 
nothing  was  ever  certain,  nothing  definite.  Some  of 
the  women  at  the  Bay  privately  thought  he'd  commit 
a  murder  one  day.  Yes,  even  while  they  talked 
to  Mrs.  Kember  and  took  In  the  awful  concoction 
she  was  wearing,  they  saw  her,  stretched  as  she  lay 
on  the  beach;  but  cold,  bloody,  and  still  with  a  cigar- 
ette stuck  in  the  corner  of  her  mouth. 

Mrs,  Kember  rose,  yawned,  unsnapped  her  belt 
buckle,  and  tugged  at  the  tape  of  her  blouse.  And 
Beryl  stepped  out  of  her  skirt  and  shed  her  jersey, 
and  stood  up  in  her  short  white  petticoat,  and  her 
camisole  with  ribbon  bows  on  the  shoulders. 

"Mercy  on  us,"  said  Mrs.  Harry  Kember,  "what 
a  little  beauty  you  are !" 

"Don't!"  said  Beryl  softly;  but,  drawing  off  one 
stocking  and  then  the  other,  she  felt  a  little  beauty. 

"My  dear — why  not?"  said  Mrs.  Harry  Kember, 
stamping  on  her  own  petticoat.  Really — her 
underclothes!  A  pair  of  blue  cotton  knickers  and 
a  linen  bodice  that  reminded  one  somehow  of  a 
pillow-case.  .  .  .  "And  you  don't  wear  stays,  do 
you?"  She  touched  Beryl's  waist,  and  Beryl  sprang 
away  with  a  small  affected  cry.  Then  "Never!" 
she  said  firmly. 

21 


At  the  Bay 

"Lucky  little  creature/'  sighed  Mrs.  Kember,  un- 
fastening her  own. 

Beryl  turned  her  back  and  began  the  complicated 
movements  of  some  one  who  is  trying  to  take  off 
her  clothes  and  to  pull  on  her  bathing-dress  all  at 
one  and  the  same  time. 

'*Oh,  my  dear — don't  mind  me,"  said  Mrs.' Harry 
Kember.  "Why  be  shy?  I  shan't  eat  you.  I 
shan't  be  shocked  like  those  other  ninnies."  And 
she  gave  her  strange  neighing  laugh  and  grimaced 
at  the  other  women. 

But  Beryl  was  shy.  She  never  undressed  in  front 
of  anybody.  Was  that  silly?  Mrs.  Harry  Kem- 
ber made  her  feel  it  was  silly,  even  something  to  be 
ashamed  of.  Why  be  shy  indeed!  She  glanced 
quickly  at  her  friend  standing  so  boldly  in  her  torn 
chemise  and  lighting  a  fresh  cigarette;  and  a  quick, 
bold,  evil  feeling  started  up  in  her  breast.  Laugh- 
ing recklessly,  she  drew  on  the  limp,  sandy-feeling 
bathing-dress  that  was  not  quite  dry  and  fastened 
the  twisted  buttons. 

'That's  better,"  said  Mrs.  Harry  Kember. 
They  began  to  go  down  the  beach  together. 
"Really,  it's  a  sin  for  you  to  wear  clothes,  my  dear. 
Somebody's  got  to  tell  you  some  day." 

The  water  was  quite  warm.  It  was  that  marvel- 
lous transparent  blue,  flecked  with  silver,  but  the 
sand  at  the  bottom  looked  gold;  when  you  kicked 
with  your  toes  there  rose  a  little  puff  of  gold-dust. 
Now   the  waves  just  reached  her   breast.     Beryl 

22 


At  the  Bay 

stood,  her  arms  outstretched,  gazing  out,  and  as 
each  wave  came  she  gave  the  slightest  little  jump,  so 
that  It  seemed  It  was  the  wave  which  lifted  her  so 
gently. 

"I  believe  in  pretty  girls  having  a  good  time," 
said  Mrs.  Harry  Kember.  "Why  not?  Don't 
you  make  a  mistake,  my  dear.  Enjoy  yourself." 
And  suddenly  she  turned  turtle,  disappeared,  and 
swam  away  quickly,  quickly,  like  a  rat.  Then  she 
flicked  round  and  began  swimming  back.  She  was 
going  to  say  something  else.  Beryl  felt  that  she 
was  being  poisoned  by  this  cold  woman,  but  she 
longed  to  hear.  But  oh,  how  strange,  how  horrible ! 
As  Mrs.  Harry  Kember  came  up  close  she  looked, 
in  her  black  waterproof  bathing-cap,  with  her  sleepy 
face  lifted  above  the  water,  just  her  chin  touching, 
like  a  horrible  caricature  of  her  husand. 


VI 

In  a  steamer  chair,  under  a  manuka  tree  that 
grew  In  the  middle  of  the  front  grass  patch,  Linda 
Burnell  dreamed  the  morning  away.  She  did  noth- 
ing. She  looked  up  at  the  dark,  close,  dry  leaves 
of  the  manuka,  at  the  chinks  of  blue  between,  and 
now  and  again  a  tiny  yellowish  flower  dropped  on 
her.  Pretty — yes,  if  you  held  one  of  those  flowers 
on  the  palm  of  your  hand  and  looked  at  It  closely, 
It  was  an  exquisite  small  thing.  Each  pale  yellow 
petal  shone  as  if  each  was  the  careful  work  of  a 

23 


At  the  Bay 

loving  hand.  The  tiny  tongue  in  the  centre  gave 
it  the  shape  of  a  bell.  And  when  you  turned  it  over 
the  outside  was  a  deep  bronze  colour.  But  as  soon 
as  they  flowered,  they  fell  and  were  scattered.  You 
brushed  them  off  your  frock  as  you  talked;  the 
horrid  little  things  got  caught  in  one's  hair.  Why, 
then,  flower  at  all?  Who  takes  the  trouble — or  the 
joy — to  make  all  these  things  that  are  wasted, 
wasted.  ...  It  was  uncanny. 

On  the  grass  beside  her,  lying  between  two 
pillows,  was  the  boy.  Sound  asleep  he  lay,  his  head 
turned  away  from  his  mother.  His  fine  dark  hair 
looked  more  like  a  shadow  than  like  real  hair,  but 
his  ear  was  a  bright,  deep  coral.  Linda  clasped  her 
hands  above  her  head  and  crossed  her  feet.  It  was 
very  pleasant  to  know  that  all  these  bungalows  were 
empty,  that  everybody  was  down  on  the  beach,  out 
of  sight,  out  of  hearing.  She  had  the  garden  to  her- 
self;  she  was  alone. 

Dazzling  white  the  picotees  shone;  the  golden- 
eyed  marigolds  glittered;  the  nasturtiums  wreathed 
the  veranda  poles  in  green  and  gold  flame.  If  only 
one  had  time  to  look  at  these  flowers  long  enough, 
time  to  get  over  the  sense  of  novelty  and  strange- 
ness, time  to  know  them!  But  as  soon  as  one 
paused  to  part  the  petals,  to  discover  the  under-side 
of  the  leaf,  along  came  Life  and  one  was  swept 
away.  And,  lying  In  her  cane  chair,  Linda  felt  so 
light;  she  felt  like  a  leaf.  Along  came  Life  like 
a  wind  and  she  was  seized  and  shaken;  she  had  to 

24 


At  the  Bay 

go.  Oh  dear,  would  It  always  be  so?  Was  there 
no  escape? 

.  .  .  Now  she  sat  on  the  veranda  of  their  Tas- 
manlan  home,  leaning  against  her  father's  knee. 
And  he  promised,  'As  soon  as  you  and  I  are  old 
enough,  Linny,  we'll  cut  off  somewhere,  we'll  escape. 
Two  boys  together.  I  have  a  fancy  I'd  like  to  sail 
up  a  river  in  China.'*  Linda  saw  that  river,  very 
wide,  covered  with  little  rafts  and  boats.  She  saw 
the  yellow  hats  of  the  boatmen  and  she  heard  their 
high,  thin  voices  as  they  called  .  .  . 

"Yes,  papa." 

But  just  then  a  very  broad  young  man  with  bright 
ginger  hair  walked  slowly  past  their  house,  and 
slowly,  solemnly  even,  uncovered.  Linda's  father 
pulled  her  ear  teaslngly.  In  the  way  he  had. 

*'LInny's  beau,"  he  whispered. 

**0h,  papa,  fancy  being  married  to  Stanley  Bur- 
nell!" 

Well,  she  was  married  to  him.  And  what  was 
more  she  loved  him.  Not  the  Stanley  whom  every 
one  saw,  not  the  everyday  one;  but  a  timid,  sensi- 
tive. Innocent  Stanley  who  knelt  down  every  night 
to  say  his  prayers,  and  who  longed  to  be  good. 
Stanley  was  simple.  If  he  believed  In  people — as  he 
believed  In  her,  for  instance — it  was  with  his  whole 
heart.  He  could  not  be  disloyal;  he  could  not  tell 
a  lie.  And  how  terribly  he  suffered  If  he  thought 
any  one — she — was  not  being  dead  straight,  dead 
sincere  with  him!     "This  is  too  subtle  for  me!" 

25 


At  the  Bay 

He  flung  out  the  words,  but  his  open,  quivering,  dis- 
traught look  was  like  the  look  of  a  trapped  beast. 

But  the  trouble  was — here  Linda  felt  almost  in- 
clined to  laugh,  though  Heaven  knows  it  was  no 
laughing  matter — she  saw  her  Stanley  so  seldom. 
There  were  glimpses,  moments,  breathing  spaces  of 
calm,  but  all  the  rest  of  the  time  it  was  like  living 
in  a  house  that  couldn't  be  cured  of  the  habit  of 
catching  on  fire,  on  a  ship  that  got  wrecked  every 
day.  And  It  was  always  Stanley  who  was  in  the 
thick  of  the  danger.  Her  whole  time  was  spent  in 
rescuing  him,  and  restoring  him,  and  calming  him 
down,  and  listening  to  his  story.  And  what  was 
left  of  her  time  was  spent  in  the  dread  of  having 
children. 

Linda  frowned;  she  sat  up  quickly  in  her  steamer 
chair  and  clasped  her  ankles.  Yes,  that  was  her 
real  grudge  against  life;  that  was  what  she  could  not 
understand.  That  was  the  question  she  asked  and 
asked,  and  listened  In  vain  for  the  answer.  It  was 
all  very  well  to  say  it  was  the  common  lot  of  women 
to  bear  children.  It  wasn't  true.  She,  for  one, 
could  prove  that  wrong.  She  was  broken,  made 
weak,  her  courage  was  gone,  through  child-bearing. 
And  what  made  It  doubly  hard  to  bear  was,  she  did 
not  love  her  children.  It  was  useless  pretending. 
Even  If  she  had  had  the  strength  she  never  would 
have  nursed  and  played  with  the  little  girls.  No, 
it  was  as  though  a  cold  breath  had  chilled  her 
through  and  through  on  each  of  those  awful  jour- 

26 


At  the  Bay 

neys;  she  had  no  warmth  left  to  give  them.  As  to 
the  boy — well,  thank  Heaven,  mother  had  taken 
him;  he  was  mother's,  or  Beryl's,  or  anybody's  who 
wanted  him.  She  had  hardly  held  him  in  her  arms. 
She  was  so  indifferent  about  him  that  as  he  lay 
there  .  .  .  Linda   glanced   down. 

The  boy  had  turned  over.  He  lay  facing  her, 
and  he  was  no  longer  asleep.  His  dark-blue,  baby 
eyes  were  open;  he  looked  as  though  he  was  peep- 
ing at  his  mother.  And  suddenly  his  face  dimpled; 
it  broke  into  a  wide,  toothless  smile,  a  perfect  beam, 
no  less. 

'Tm  here!"  that  happy  smile  seemed  to  say. 
*'Why  don't  you  like  me?" 

There  was  something  so  quaint,  so  unexpected 
about  that  smile  that  Linda  smiled  herself.  But 
she  checked  herself  and  said  to  the  boy  coldly,  ''I 
don't  like  babies." 

"Don't  like  babies?"  The  boy  couldn't  believe 
her.  *'Don't  like  mef^  He  waved  his  arms  fool- 
ishly at  his  mother. 

Linda  dropped  off  her  chair  on  to  the  grass. 

"Why  do  you  keep  on  smiling?"  she  said  severely. 
"If  you  knew  what  I  was  thinking  about,  you 
wouldn't." 

But  he  only  squeezed  up  his  eyes,  slyly,  and  rolled 
his  head  on  the  pillow.  He  didn't  believe  a  word 
she  said. 

"We  know  all  about  that!"  smiled  the  boy. 

Linda  was  so  astonished  at  the  confidence  of  this 
27 


At  the  Bay 

little  creature.  ...  Ah  no,  be  sincere.  That  was 
not  what  she  felt;  It  was  something  far  different,  It 
was  something  so  new,  so  .  .  .  The  tears  danced 
in  her  eyes;  she  breathed  In  a  small  whisper  to  the 
boy,  "Hallo,  my  funny!" 

But  by  now  the  boy  had  forgotten  his  mother. 
He  was  serious  again.  Something  pink,  something 
soft  waved  In  front  of  him.  He  made  a  grab  at  it 
and  It  immediately  disappeared.  But  when  he  lay 
back,  another,  like  the  first,  appeared.  This  time 
he  determined  to  catch  it.  He  made  a  tremendous 
effort  and  rolled  right  over. 


VII 

The  tide  was  out;  the  beach  was  deserted;  lazily 
flopped  the  warm  sea.  The  sun  beat  down,  beat 
down  hot  and  fiery  on  the  fine  sand,  baking  the  grey 
and  blue  and  black  and  white-veined  pebbles.  It 
sucked  up  the  little  drop  of  water  that  lay  in  the 
hollow  of  the  curved  shells;  It  bleached  the  pink  con- 
volvulus that  threaded  through  and  through  the 
sand-hills.  Nothing  seemed  to  move  but  the  small 
sand-hoppers.     PIt-pit-pIt!     They  were  never  still. 

Over  there  on  the  weed-hung  rocks  that  looked 
at  low  tide  like  shaggy  beasts  come  down  to  the 
water  to  drink,  the  sunlight  seemed  to  spin  like  a 
silver  coin  dropped  into  each  of  the  small  rock  pools. 
They  danced,  they  quivered,  and  minute  ripples 
laved  the  porous  shores.     Looking  down,  bending 

28 


At  the  Bay 

over,  each  pool  was  like  a  lake  with  pink  and  blue 
houses  clustered  on  the  shores;  and  oh!  the  vast 
mountainous  country  behind  those  houses — the  ra- 
vines, the  passes,  the  dangerous  creeks  and  fearful 
tracks  that  led  to  the  water's  edge.  Underneath 
waved  the  sea-forest — pink  thread-like  trees,  velvet 
anemones,  and  orange  berry-spotted  weeds.  Now  a 
stone  on  the  bottom  moved,  rocked,  and  there  was  a 
glimpse  of  a  black  feeler;  now  a  thread-like  creature 
wavered  by  and  was  lost.  Something  was  happen- 
ing to  the  pink,  waving  trees;  they  were  changing 
to  a  cold  moonlight  blue.  And  now  there  sounded 
the  faintest  ''plop."  Who  made  that  sound?  What 
was  going  on  down  there?  And  how  strong,  how 
damp  the  seaweed  smelt  in  the  hot  sun.   .  .  . 

The  green  blinds  were  drawn  in  the  bungalows 
of  the  summer  colony.  Over  the  verandas,  prone 
on  the  paddock,  flung  over  the  fences,  there  were 
exhausted-looking  bathing-dresses  and  rough  striped 
towels.  Each  back  window  seemed  to  have  a  pair 
of  sand-shoes  on  the  sill  and  some  lumps  of  rock 
or  a  bucket  or  a  collection  of  pawa  shells.  The 
bush  quivered  in  a  haze  of  heat;  the  sandy  road 
was  empty  except  for  the  Trouts'  dog  Snooker,  who 
lay  stretched  in  the  very  middle  of  it.  His  blue  eye 
was  turned  up,  his  legs  stuck  out  stiffly,  and  he  gave 
an  occasional  desperate-sounding  puff,  as  much  as  to 
say  he  had  decided  to  make  an  end  of  it  and  was  only 
waiting  for  some  kind  cart  to  come  along. 

**What  are  you  looking  at,  my  grandma?  Why 
29 


At  the  Bay 

do  you  keep  stopping  and  sort  of  staring  at  the 
wall?" 

Kezia  and  her  grandmother  were  taking  their 
siesta  together.  The  little  girl,  wearing  only  her 
short  drawers  and  her  under-bodice,  her  arms  and 
legs  bare,  lay  on  one  of  the  puffed-up  pillows  of  her 
grandma's  bed,  and  the  old  woman,  in  a  white 
ruffled  dressing-gown,  sat  in  a  rocker  at  the  window, 
with  a  long  piece  of  pink  knitting  in  her  lap.  This 
room  that  they  shared,  like  the  other  rooms  of  the 
bungalow,  was  of  light  varnished  wood  and  the  floor 
was  bare.  The  furniture  was  of  the  shabbiest,  the 
simplest.  The  dressing-table,  for  instance,  was  a 
packing-case  in  a  sprigged  muslin  petticoat,  and  the 
mirror  above  was  very  strange;  it  was  as  though  a 
little  piece  of  forked  lightning  was  imprisoned  in 
it.  On  the  table  there  stood  a  jar  of  sea-pinks, 
pressed  so  tightly  together  they  looked  more  like 
a  velvet  pincushion,  and  a  special  shell  which  Kezia 
had  given  her  grandma  for  a  pin-tray,  and  another 
even  more  special  which  she  had  thought  would 
make  a  very  nice  place  for  a  watch  to  curl  up  in. 

"Tell  me,  grandma,"  said  Kezia. 

The  old  woman  sighed,  whipped  the  wool  twice 
round  her  thumb,  and  drew  the  bone  needle  through. 
She  was  casting  on. 

"I  was  thinking  of  your  Uncle  William,  darling," 
she  said  quietly. 

''My  Australian  Uncle  William?"  said  Kezia. 
She  had  another. 

30 


At  the  Bay 

**Yes,  of  course." 

"The  one  I  never  saw?" 

"That  was  the  one." 

"Well,  what  happened  to  him?"  Kezia  knew 
perfectly  well,  but  she  wanted  to  be  told  again. 

"He  went  to  the  mines,  and  he  got  a  sunstroke 
there  and  died,"  said  old  Mrs.  Fairfield. 

Kezia  blinked  and  considered  the  picture  again 
...  a  little  man  fallen  over  like  a  tin  soldier  by 
the  side  of  a  big  black  hole. 

"Does  it  make  you  sad  to  think  about  him, 
grandma?"     She  hated  her  grandma  to  be  sad. 

It  was  the  old  woman's  turn  to  consider.  Did 
it  make  her  sad?  To  look  back,  back.  To  stare 
down  the  years,  as  Kezia  had  seen  her  doing.  To 
look  after  them  as  a  woman  does,  long  after  they 
were  out  of  sight.  Did  it  make  her  sad?  No,  life 
was  like  that. 

"No,  Kezia." 

"But  why?"  asked  Kezia.  She  lifted  one  bare 
arm  and  began  to  draw  things  in  the  air.  "Why 
did  Uncle  William  have  to  die?     He  wasn't  old." 

Mrs.  Fairfield  began  counting  the  stitches  in 
threes.     "It  just  happened,"  she  said  in  an  absorbed 


voice 


Does  everybody  have  to  die?"  asked  Kezia. 
"Everybody!" 

**Mef^^  Kezia  sounded  fearfully  incredulous. 
"Some  day,  my  darling." 
"But,  grandma."     Kezia  waved  her  left  leg  and 

31 


At  the  Bay 

waggled  the  toes.  They  felt  sandy.  "What  if  I 
just  won't?" 

The  old  woman  sighed  again  and  drew  a  long 
thread  from  the  ball. 

"WeVe  not  asked,  Kezia,"  she  said  sadly.  *'It 
nappens  to  all  of  us  sooner  or  later.'* 

Kezia  lay  still  thinking  this  over.  She  didn't 
want  to  die.  It  meant  she  would  have  to  leave  here, 
leave  everywhere,  for  ever,  leave — ^leave  her 
grandma.     She  rolled  over  quickly. 

"Grandma,"  she  said  in  a  startled  voice. 

"What,  my  pet  r 

*^YoiCre  not  to  die."     Kezia  was  very  decided. 

"Ah,  Kezia" — her  grandma  looked  up  and  smiled 
and  shook  her  head — "don't  let's  talk  about  it." 

"But  you're  not  to.  You  couldn't  leave  me. 
You  couldn't  not  be  there."  This  was  awful. 
"Promise  me  you  won't  ever  do  It,  grandma," 
pleaded  Kezia. 

The  old  woman  went  on  knitting. 

"Promise  me!     Say  never!" 

But  still  her  grandma  was  silent. 

Kezia  rolled  off  the  bed;  she  couldn't  bear  It  any 
longer,  and  lightly  she  leapt  on  to  her  grandma's 
knees,  clasped  her  hands  round  the  old  woman's 
throat  and  began  kissing  her,  under  the  chin,  behind 
the  ear,  and  blowing  down  her  neck. 

"Say  never  .  .  .  say  never  .  .  .  say  never " 

She  gasped  between  the  kisses.  And  then  she  be- 
gan, very  softly  and  lightly,  to  tickle  her  grandma. 

32 


M 


At  the  Bay 

*'Kezia !"  The  old  woman  dropped  her  knitting. 
She  swung  back  in  the  rocker.  She  began  to  tickle 
Kezia.  "Say  never,  say  never,  say  never,*'  gurgled 
Kezia,  while  they  lay  there  laughing  in  each  other's 
arms.  "Come,  that's  enough,  my  squirrel!  That's 
enough,  my  wild  pony!"  said  old  Mrs.  Fairfield,  set- 
ting her  cap  straight.     "Pick  up  my  knitting." 

Both  of  them  had  forgotten  what  the  "never 
was  about. 


VIII 

The  sun  was  still  full  on  the  garden  when  the 
back  door  of  the  Burnells'  shut  with  a  bang,  and  a 
very  gay  figure  walked  down  the  path  to  the  gate. 
It  was  Alice,  the  servant-girl,  dressed  for  her  after- 
noon out.  She  wore  a  white  cotton  dress  with  such 
large  red  spots  on  it  and  so  many  that  they  made  you 
shudder,  white  shoes  and  a  leghorn  turned  up  under 
the  brim  with  poppies.  Of  course  she  wore  gloves, 
white  ones,  stained  at  the  fastenings  with  iron- 
mould,  and  in  one  hand  she  carried  a  very  dashed- 
looking  sunshade  which  she  referred  to  as  her 
perishall. 

Beryl,  sitting  In  the  window,  fanning  her  freshly- 
washed  hair,  thought  she  had  never  seen  such  a 
guy.  If  Alice  had  only  blacked  her  face  with  a 
piece  of  cork  before  she  started  out,  the  picture 
would  have  been  complete.  And  where  did  a  girl 
like  that  go  to  in  a  place  like  this?  The  heart-shaped 

33 


At  the  Bay 

Fijian  fan  beat  scornfully  at  that  lovely  bright  mane. 
She  supposed  Alice  had  picked  up  some  horrible 
common  larrikin  and  they'd  go  off  into  the  bush  to- 
gether. Pity  to  make  herself  so  conspicuous;  they'd 
have  hard  work  to  hide  with  Alice  in  that  rig-out. 

But  no,  Beryl  was  unfair.  Alice  was  going  to 
tea  with  Mrs.  Stubbs,  who'd  sent  her  an  "invite"  by 
the  little  boy  who  called  for  orders.  She  had 
taken  ever  such  a  liking  to  Mrs.  Stubbs  ever  since 
the  first  time  she  went  to  the  shop  to  get  something 
for  her  mosquitoes. 

"Dear  heart!"  Mrs.  Stubbs  had  clapped  her 
hand  to  her  side.  "I  never  seen  any  one  so  eaten. 
You  might  have  been  attacked  by  cannlngbals." 

Alice  did  wish  there'd  been  a  bit  of  life  on 
the  road  though.  Made  her  feel  so  queer,  having 
nobody  behind  her.  Made  her  feel  all  weak  in  the 
spine.  She  couldn't  believe  that  some  one  wasn't 
watching  her.  And  yet  it  was  silly  to  turn  round; 
it  gave  you  away.  She  pulled  up  her  gloves, 
hummed  to  herself  and  said  to  the  distant  gum-tree, 
"Shan't  be  long  now."  But  that  was  hardly  com- 
pany. 

Mrs.  Stubbs's  shop  was  perched  on  a  little  hillock 
just  off  the  road.  It  had  two  big  windows  for  eyes, 
a  broad  veranda  for  a  hat,  and  the  sign  on  the  roof, 
scrawled  MRS.  STUBBS'S,  was  like  a  little  card 
stuck  rakishly  in  the  hat  crown. 

On  the  veranda  there  hung  a  long  string  of  bath- 
ing-dresses, clinging  together  as  though  they'd  just 

34 


At  the  Bay 

been  rescued  from  the  sea  rather  than  waiting  to 
go  In,  and  beside  them  there  hung  a  cluster  of  sand- 
shoes so  extraordinarily  mixed  that  to  get  at  one 
pair  you  had  to  tear  apart  and  forcibly  separate  at 
least  fifty.  Even  then  it  was  the  rarest  thing  to  find 
the  left  that  belonged  to  the  right.  So  many  people 
had  lost  patience  and  gone  ofi  with  one  shoe  that 
fitted  and  one  that  was  a  little  too  big.  .  .  .  Mrs. 
Stubbs  prided  herself  on  keeping  something  of  every- 
thing. The  two  windows,  arranged  in  the  form  of 
precarious  pyramids,  were  crammed  so  tight,  piled  so 
high,  that  it  seemed  only  a  conjuror  could  prevent 
them  from  toppling  over.  In  the  left-hand  corner 
of  one  window,  glued  to  the  pane  by  four  gelatine 
lozenges,  there  was — and  there  had  been  from  time 
immemorial — a  notice. 

lost!  hansome  gole  brooch 

solid  gold 

on  or  near  beach 

reward  offered 

Alice  pressed  open  the  door.  The  bell  jangled, 
the  red  serge  curtains  parted,  and  Mrs.  Stubbs 
appeared.  With  her  broad  smile  and  the  long 
bacon  knife  in  her  hand,  she  looked  like  a  friendly 
brigand.  Alice  was  welcomed  so  warmly  that  she 
found  it  quite  difficult  to  keep  up  her  ^'manners." 
They  consisted  of  persistent  little  coughs  and  hems, 
pulls  at  her  gloves,  tweaks  at  her  skirt,  and  a  curious 

35 


At  the  Bay 

difficulty  in  seeing  what  was  set  before  her  or 
understanding  what  was  said. 

Tea  was  laid  on  the  parlour  table — ham,  sar- 
dines, a  whole  pound  of  butter,  and  such  a  large 
johnny  cake  that  it  looked  like  an  advertisement  for 
somebody's  baking-powder.  But  the  Primus  stove 
roared  so  loudly  that  It  was  useless  to  try  to  talk 
above  it.  Alice  sat  down  on  the  edge  of  a  basket- 
chair  while  Mrs.  Stubbs  pumped  the  stove  still 
higher.  Suddenly  Mrs.  Stubbs  whipped  the  cush- 
ion off  a  chair  and  disclosed  a  large  brown-paper 
parcel. 

''I've  just  had  some  new  photers  taken,  my  dear,'' 
she  shouted  cheerfully  to  Alice.  "Tell  me  what  you 
think  of  them." 

In  a  very  dainty,  refined  way  Alice  wet  her  finger 
and  put  the  tissue  back  from  the  first  one.  Life! 
How  many  there  were!  There  were  three  dozzing 
at  least.     And  she  held  it  up  to  the  light. 

Mrs.  Stubbs  sat  in  an  arm-chair,  leaning  very 
much  to  one  side.  There  was  a  look  of  mild  aston- 
ishment on  her  large  face,  and  well  there  might  be. 
For  though  the  arm-chair  stood  on  a  carpet,  to  the 
left  of  It,  miraculously  skirting  the  carpet-border, 
there  was  a  dashing  water-fall.  On  her  right  stood 
a  Grecian  pillar  with  a  giant  fern-tree  on  either  side 
of  it,  and  in  the  background  towered  a  gaunt  moun- 
tain, pale  with  snow. 

"It  is  a  nice  style,  isn't  It?"  shouted  Mrs.  Stubbs; 
and  Alice  had  just  screamed  "Sweetly"  when  the 

36 


At  the  Bay 

roaring  of  the  Primus  stove  died  down,  fizzled  out, 
ceased,  and  she  said  "Pretty^*  in  a  silence  that  was^ 
frightening. 

*'Draw  up  your  chair,  my  dear,'*  said  Mrs. 
Stubbs,  beginning  to  pour  out.  *'Yes,"  she  said 
thoughtfully,  as  she  handed  the  tea,  *'but  I  don't 
care  about  the  size.  I'm  having  an  enlargemint. 
All  very  well  for  Christmas  cards,  but  I  never  was 
the  one  for  small  photers  myself.  You  get  no  com- 
fort out  of  them.  To  say  the  truth,  I  find  them 
dis'eartening." 

Alice  quite  saw  what  she  meant. 

*'Size,"  said  Mrs.  Stubbs.  ^'Give  me  size. 
That  was  what  my  poor  dear  husband  was  always 
saying.  He  couldn't  stand  anything  small.  Gave 
him  the  creeps.  And,  strange  as  it  may  seem,  my 
dear" — here  Mrs.  Stubbs  creaked  and  seemed  to 
expand  herself  at  the  memory — *'it  was  dropsy  that 
carried  him  off  at  the  larst.  Many's  the  time  they 
drawn  one  and  a  half  pints  from  'im  at  the 
'ospital.  ....  It  seemed  like  a  judgmint." 

Alice  burned  to  know  exactly  what  it  was  that  was. 
drawn  from  him.  She  ventured,  **I  suppose  it  was^ 
water." 

But  Mrs.  Stubbs  fixed  Alice  with  her  eyes  and 
replied  meaningly,  "It  was  liquid,  my  dear." 

Liquid !  Alice  jumped  away  from  the  word  like 
a  cat  and  came  back  to  it,  nosing  and  wary. 

^That's  'im!"  said  Mrs.  Stubbs,  and  she  pointed 
dramatically  to  the  life-size  head  and  shoulders  of 

37 


At  the  Bay 

a  burly  man  with  a  dead  white  rose  in  the  button- 
hole of  his  coat  that  made  you  think  of  a  curl  of 
cold  mutting  fat.  Just  below,  in  silver  letters  on  a 
red  cardboard  ground,  were  the  words,  "Be  not 
afraid,  it  is  I." 

"It's  ever  such  a  fine  face,"  said  Alice  faintly. 

The  pale-blue  bow  on  the  top  of  Mrs.  Stubbs's 
fair  frizzy  hair  quivered.  She  arched  her  plump 
neck.  What  a  neck  she  had!  It  was  bright  pink 
where  it  began  and  then  it  changed  to  warm 
apricot,  and  that  faded  to  the  colour  of  a  brown  egg 
and  then  to  a  deep  creamy. 

"All  the  same,  my  dear,"  she  said  surprisingly, 
"freedom's  best!"  Her  soft,  fat  chuckle  sounded 
like  a  purr.  "Freedom's  best,"  said  Mrs.  Stubbs 
again. 

Freedom!  Alice  gave  a  loud,  silly  little  titter. 
She  felt  awkward.  Her  mind  flew  back  to  her  own 
kltching.  Ever  so  queer!  She  wanted  to  be  back 
in  it  again. 


IX 

A  strange  company  assembled  in  the  Burnells' 
washhouse  after  tea.  Round  the  table  there  sat  a 
bull,  a  rooster,  a  donkey  that  kept  forgetting  it 
was  a  donkey,  a  sheep  and  a  bee.  The  washhouse 
was  the  perfect  place  for  such  a  meeting  because 
they  could  make  as  much  noise  as  they  liked,  and 
nobody  ever  interrupted.     It  was  a  small  tin  shed 

38 


At  the  Bay 

standing  apart  from  the  bungalow.  Against  the 
wall  there  was  a  deep  trough  and  in  the  corner  a 
copper  with  a  basket  of  clothes-pegs  on  top  of  it. 
The  little  window,  spun  over  with  cobwebs,  had  a 
piece  of  candle  and  a  -mouse-trap  on  the  dusty  sill. 
There  were  clotheslines  criss-crossed  overhead  and, 
hanging  from  a  peg  on  the  wall,  a  very  big,  a  huge, 
rusty  horseshoe.  The  table  was  in  the  middle  with 
a  form  at  either  side. 

"You  can't  be  a  bee,  Kezia.  A  bee's  not  an 
animal.     It's  a  ninseck." 

"Oh,  but  I  do  want  to  be  a  bee  frightfully,'' 
wailed  Kezia.  ...  A  tiny  bee,  all  yellow-furry, 
with  striped  legs.  She  drew  her  legs  up  under 
her  and  leaned  over  the  table.  She  felt  she  was  a 
bee. 

"A  ninseck  must  be  an  animal,"  she  said  stoutly. 
"It  makes  a  noise.     It's  not  like  a  fish." 

"I'm  a  bull,  I'm  a  bull  I"  cried  Pip.  And  he  gave 
such  a  tremendous  bellow — how  did  he  make  that 
noise? — that  Lottie  looked  quite  alarmed. 

"I'll  be  a  sheep,"  said  little  Rags.  "A  whole 
lot  of  sheep  went  past  this  morning.'* 

"How  do  you  know?" 

"Dad  heard  them.  Baa!"  He  sounded  like  the 
little  lamb  that  trots  behind  and  seems  to  wait  to  be 
carried. 

"Cock-a-doodle-do!"  shrilled  Isabel.  With  her 
red  cheeks  and  bright  eyes  she  looked  like  a  rooster. 

"What'U  I  be?"  Lottie  asked  everybody,  and  she 

39 


At  the  Bay 

sat  there  smiling,  waiting  for  them  to  decide  for 
her.     It  had  to  be  an  easy  one. 

"Be  a  donkey,  Lottie."  It  was  Kezia's  sug- 
gestion.    "Hee-haw!     You   can't   forget   that." 

"Hee-haw  I"  said  Lottie  solemnly.  "When  do  I 
have  to  say  it?" 

"ril  explain,  I'll  explain,"  said  the  bull.  It  was 
he  who  had  the  cards.  He  waved  them  round  his 
head.  "All  be  quiet  I  All  listen!"  And  he  waited 
for  them.  "Look  here,  Lottie."  He  turned  up 
a  card.  "It's  got  two  spots  on  it — see?  Now,  if 
you  put  that  card  in  the  middle  and  somebody  else 
has  one  with  two  spots  as  well,  you  say  'Hee-haw,' 
and  the  card's  yours." 

"Mine?"    Lottie  was  round-eyed.     "To  keep?" 

^'No,  silly.  Just  for  the  game,  see?  Just  while 
we're  playing.'"     The  bull  was  very  cross  with  her. 

"Oh,  Lottie,  you  are  a  little  silly,"  said  the  proud 
rooster. 

Lottie  looked  at  both  of  them.  Then  she  hung 
her  head;  her  lip  quivered.  "I  don't  not  want  to 
play,"  she  whispered.  The  others  glanced  at  one 
another  like  conspirators.  All  of  them  knew  what 
that  meant.  She  would  go  away  and  be  discovered 
somewhere  standing  with  her  pinny  thrown  over  her 
head,  in  a  corner,  or  against  a  wall,  or  even  behind 
a  chair. 

"Yes,  you  do^  Lottie.  It's  quite  easy,"  said 
Kezia. 

40 


At  the  Bay 

And  Isabel,  repentant,  said  exactly  like  a  grown- 
up, "Watch  me,  Lottie,  and  you'll  soon  learn." 

"Cheer  up,  Lot,"  said  Pip.  "There,  I  know 
what  I'll  do.  I'll  give  you  the  first  one.  It's  mine, 
really,  but  I'll  give  it  to  you.  Here  you  are." 
And  he  slammed  the  card  down  in  front  of  Lottie. 

Lottie  revived  at  that.  But  now  she  was  in 
another  difficulty.  "I  haven't  got  a  hanky,"  she 
said;  "I  want  one  badly,  too." 

"Here,  Lottie,  you  can  use  mine."  Rags  dipped 
into  his  sailor  blouse  and  brought  up  a  very  wet- 
looking  one,  knotted  together.  "Be  very  careful," 
he  warned  her.  "Only  use  that  corner.  Don't  un- 
do it.  I've  got  a  little  starfish  inside  I'm  going  to 
try  and  tame." 

"Oh,  come  on,  you  girls,"  said  the  bull.  "And 
mind — you're  not  to  look  at  your  cards.  You've 
got  to  keep  your  hands  under  the  table  till  I  say 
'Go.'  " 

Smack  went  the  cards  round  the  table.  They 
fried  with  all  their  might  to  see,  but  Pip  was  too 
quick  for  them.  It  was  very  exciting,  sitting  there 
in  the  washhouse;  it  was  all  they  could  do  not  to 
burst  into  a  little  chorus  of  animals  before  Pip  had 
finished  dealing. 

"Now,  Lottie,  you  begin." 

Timidly  Lottie  stretched  out  a  hand,  took  the  top 
card  off  her  pack,  had  a  good  look  at  it — it  was 
plain  she  was  counting  the  spots — and  put  it  down. 

41 


At  the  Bay 

"No,  Lottie,  you  can't  do  that.  You  mustn't 
look  first.     You  must  turn  it  the  other  way  over.'* 

''But  then  everybody  will  see  it  the  same  time  as 
me,"  said  Lottie. 

The  game  proceeded.  Mooe-ooo-er !  The  bull 
was  terrible.  He  charged  over  the  table  and 
seemed  to  eat  the  cards  up. 

Bss-ss !  said  the  bee. 

Cock-a-doodle-do !  Isabel  stood  up  in  her  ex- 
citement and  moved  her  elbows  like  wings. 

Baa!  Little  Rags  put  down  the  King  of  Dia- 
monds and  Lottie  put  down  the  one  they  called  the 
King  of  Spain.     She  had  hardly  any  cards  left. 

"Why  don't  you  call  out,  Lottie?" 

"I've  forgotten  what  I  am,"  said  the  donkey  woe- 
fully. 

"Well,  change!  Be  a  dog  instead!  Bow- 
wow!" 

"Oh  yes.  That's  much  easier."  Lottie  smiled 
again.  But  when  she  and  Kezia  both  had  a  one 
Kezia  waited  on  purpose.  The  others  made  signs 
to  Lottie  and  pointed.  Lottie  turned  very  red;  she 
looked  bewildered,  and  at  last  she  said,  "Hee-haw! 
Ke-zia." 

"Ss!  Wait  a  minute!"  They  were  in  the  very 
thick  of  it  when  the  bull  stopped  them,  holding  up 
his  hand.     "What's  that?     What's  that  noise?" 

"What  noise?  What  do  you  mean?'*  asked  the 
rooster. 

")Ss!  Shut  up!  Listen!"  They  were  mouse- 
42 


At  the  Bay 

still.  "I  thought  I  heard  a — a  sort  of  knocking/* 
said  the  bull. 

''What  was  it  like?"  asked  the  sheep  faintly. 

No  answer. 

The  bee  gave  a  shudder.  "Whatever  did  we 
shut  the  door  for?"  she  said  softly.  Oh,  why,  why 
had  they  shut  the  door? 

While  they  were  playing,  the  day  had  faded;  the 
gorgeous  sunset  had  blazed  and  died.  And  now 
the  quick  dark  came  racing  over  the  sea,  over  the 
sand-hills,  up  the  paddock.  You  were  frightened  to 
look  in  the  corners  of  the  washhouse,  and  yet  you 
had  to  look  with  all  your  might.  And  somewhere, 
far  away,  grandma  was  lighting  a  lamp.  The 
blinds  were  being  pulled  down;  the  kitchen  fire 
leapt  in  the  tins  on  the  mantelpiece. 

"It  would  be  awful  now,"  said  the  bull,  "if  a 
spider  was  to  fall  from  the  ceiling  on  to  the  table, 
wouldn't  it?" 

"Spiders  don't  fall  from  ceilings." 

"Yes,  they  do.  Our  Min  told  us  she'd  seen  a 
spider  as  big  as  a  saucer,  with  long  hairs  on  it  like 
a  gooseberry." 

Quickly  all  the  little  heads  were  jerked  up;  all 
the  little  bodies  drew  together,  pressed  together. 

"Why  doesn't  somebody  come  and  call  us?"  cried 
the  rooster. 

Oh,  those  grown-ups,  laughing  and  snug,  sitting 
in  the  lamp-light,  drinking  out  of  cups!  They'd 
forgotten  about  them.     No,  not  really  forgotten. 

43 


At  the  Bay 

That  was  what  their  smile  meant.  They  had  de- 
cided to  leave  them  there  all  by  themselves. 

Suddenly  Lottie  gave  such  a  piercing  scream  that 
all  of  them  jumped  off  the  forms,  all  of  them 
screamed  too.  "A  face — a  face  looking!"  shrieked 
Lottie. 

It  was  true,  it  was  real.  Pressed  against  the 
window  was  a  pale  face,  black  eyes,  a  black  beard. 

"Grandma!     Mother!     Somebody!" 

But  they  had  not  got  to  the  door,  tumbling  over 
one  another,  before  it  opened  for  Uncle  Jonathan. 
He  had  come  to  take  the  little  boys  home. 


He  had  meant  to  be  there  before,  but  in  the  front 
garden  he  had  come  upon  Linda  walking  up  and 
down  the  grass,  stopping  to  pick  off  a  dead  pink  or 
give  a  top-heavy  carnation  something  to  lean 
against,  or  to  take  a  deep  breath  of  something,  and 
then  walking  on  again,  with  her  little  air  of  remote- 
ness. Over  her  white  frock  she  wore  a  yellow, 
pink-fringed  shawl  from  the  Chinaman^s  shop. 

"Hallo,  Jonathan!"  called  Linda,  And  Jona- 
than whipped  off  his  shabby  panama,  pressed  it 
against  his  breast,  dropped  on  one  knee,  and  kissed 
Linda^s  hand. 

"Greeting,  my  Fair  One !  Greeting,  my  Celestial 
Peach  Blossom!"  boomed  the  bass  voice  gently. 
"Where  are  the  other  noble  dames?" 

44 


At  the  Bay 

"Beryrs  out  playing  bridge  and  mother's  giving 
the  boy  his  bath.  .  .  .  Have  you  come  to  borrow 
something?" 

The  Trouts  were  for  ever  running  out  of  things 
and  sending  across  to  the  Burnells'  at  the  last  mo- 
ment. 

But  Jonathan  only  answered,  *'A  little  love,  a 
little  kindness" ;  and  he  walked  by  his  sister-in-law's 
side. 

Linda  dropped  into  Beryl's  hammock  under 
the  manuka-tree,  and  Jonathan  stretched  himself 
on  the  grass  beside  her,  pulled  a  long  stalk  and 
began  chewing  it.  They  knew  each  other  well. 
The  voices  of  children  cried  from  the  other 
gardens.  A  fisherman's  light  cart  shook  along 
the  sandy  road,  and  from  far  away  they  heard 
a  dog  barking;  it  was  muffled  as  though  the 
dog  had  Its  head  in  a  sack.  If  you  listened 
you  could  just  hear  the  soft  swish  of  the  sea 
at  full  tide  sweeping  the  pebbles.  The  sun  was 
sinking. 

"And  so  you  go  back  to  the  office  on  Monday, 
do  you,  Jonathan?"  asked  Linda. 

*'0n  Monday  the  cage  door  opens  and  clangs  to 
upon  the  victim  for  another  eleven  months  and  a 
week,"  answered  Jonathan. 

Linda  swung  a  little.  *'It  must  be  awful,"  she 
said  slowly. 

"Would  ye  have  me  laugh,  my  fair  sister? 
Would  ye  have  me  weep?" 

45 


At  the  Bay 

Linda  was  so  accustomed  to  Jonathan's  way  of 
talking  that  she  paid  no  attention  to  it. 

*'I  suppose,"  she  said  vaguely,  "one  gets  used  to 
it.    One  gets  used  to  anything." 

"Does  one?  Hum!"  The  "Hum"  was  so  deep 
it  seemed  to  boom  from  underneath  the  ground. 
"I  wonder  how  it's  done,"  brooded  Jonathan;  "I've 
never  managed  it." 

Looking  at  him  as  he  lay  there,  Linda  thought 
again  how  attractive  he  was.  It  was  strange  to 
think  that  he  was  only  an  ordinary  clerk,  that  Stan- 
ley earned  twice  as  much  money  as  he.  What  was 
the  matter  with  Jonathan?  He  had  no  ambition; 
she  supposed  that  was  it.  And  yet  one  felt  he  was 
gifted,  exceptional.  He  was  passionately  fond  of 
music;  every  spare  penny  he  had  went  on  books. 
He  was  always  full  of  new  ideas,  schemes,  plans. 
But  nothing  came  of  it  all.  The  new  fire  blazed  in 
Jonathan;  you  almost  heard  it  roaring  softly  as  he 
explained,  described  and  dilated  on  the  new  thing; 
but  a  moment  later  it  had  fallen  in  and  there  was 
nothing  but  ashes,  and  Jonathan  went  about  with  a 
look  like  hunger  in  his  black  eyes.  At  these  times 
he  exaggerated  his  absurd  manner  of  speaking,  and 
he  sang  In  church — he  was  the  leader  of  the  choir — 
with  such  fearful  dramatic  intensity  that  the 
meanest  hymn  put  on  an  unholy  splendour. 

"It  seems  to  me  just  as  imbecile,  just  as  infernal, 
to  have  to  go  to  the  office  on  Monday,"  said  Jona- 
than, "as  it  always  has  done  and  always  will  do. 

46 


At  the  Bay 

To  spend  all  the  best  years  of  one's  life  sitting  on 
a  stool  from  nine  to  five,  scratching  in  somebody's 
ledger!  It's  a  queer  use  to  make  of  one's  .  .  . 
one  and  only  life,  isn't  it?  Or  do  I  fondly  dream?'* 
He  rolled  over  on  the  grass  and  looked  up  at  Linda. 
*'Tell  me,  what  is  the  difference  between  my  life 
and  that  of  an  ordinary  prisoner.  The  only  dif- 
ference I  can  see  is  that  I  put  myself  in  jail  and  no- 
body's ever  going  to  let  me  out.  That's  a  more 
intolerable  situation  than  the  other.  For  if  I'd 
been — pushed  in,  against  my  will — kicking,  even — 
once  the  door  was  locked,  or  at  any  rate  in  five  years 
or  so,  I  might  have  accepted  the  fact  and  begun  to 
take  an  interest  in  the  flight  of  flies  or  counting  the 
warder's  steps  along  the  passage  with  particular 
attention  to  variations  of  tread  and  so  on.  But  as 
it  is,  I'm  like  an  insect  that's  flown  into  a  room  of 
its  own  accord.  I  dash  against  the  walls,  dash 
against  the  windows,  flop  against  the  ceiling,  do 
everything  on  God's  earth,  in  fact,  except  fly  out 
again.  And  all  the  while  I'm  thinking,  like  that 
moth,  or  that  butterfly,  or  whatever  it  is,  *The  short- 
ness of  life  I  The  shortness  of  life !'  I've  only 
one  night  or  one  day,  and  there's  this  vast  danger- 
ous garden,  waiting  out  there,  undiscovered,  un- 
explored." 

"But,    if  you    feel  like   that,   why "   began 

Linda  quickly. 

''AhT'  cried  Jonathan.  And  that  *'ah!"  was 
somehow  almost  exultant.     "There  you  have  me. 

47 


At  the  Bay 

Why?  Why  Indeed?  There's  the  maddening, 
mysterious  question-  Why  don't  I  fly  out  again  i 
There's  the  window  or  the  door  or  whatever  It  was 
I  came  In  by.  It's  not  hopelessly  shut — Is  It? 
Why  don't  I  find  It  and  be  off?  Answer  me 
that,  little  sister."  But  he  gave  her  no  time  to 
answer. 

"I'm  exactly  like  that  Insect  again.  For  some 
reason" — ^Jonathan  paused  between  the  words — 
"it's  not  allowed,  it's  forbidden.  It's  against  the  In- 
sect law,  to  stop  banging  and  flopping  and  crawl- 
ing up  the  pane  even  for  an  Instant.  Why  don't 
I  leave  the  office?  Why  don't  I  seriously  consider, 
this  moment,  for  instance,  what  it  Is  that  prevents 
me  leaving?  It's  not  as  though  I'm  tremendously 
tied.  I've  two  boys  to  provide  for,  but,  after  all, 
they're  boys.     I  could  cut  off  to  sea,  or  get  a  job 

up-country,  or "     Suddenly  he  smiled  at  Linda 

and  said  In  a  changed  voice,  as  If  he  were  confiding 
a    secret,    "Weak  .  .  .  weak.     No    stamina.     No 
anchor.     No  guIHIng  principle,  let  us  call  it."     But 
then  the  dark  velvety  voice  rolled  out: 
Would  ye  hear  the  story 
How  it  unfolds  itself  .  .  . 
and  they  were  silent. 

The  sun  had  set.  In  the  western  sky  there  were 
great  masses  of  crushed-up  rose-coloured  clouds. 
Broad  beams  of  light  shone  through  the  clouds  and 
beyond  them  as  If  they  would  cover  the  whole  sky. 
Overhead  the  blue  faded;  it  turned  a  pale  gold,  and 

48 


At  the  Bay 

the  bush  outlined  against  It  gleamed  dark  and  bril- 
liant like  metal.  Sometimes  when  those  beams  of 
light  show  in  the  sky  they  are  very  awful.  They 
remind  you  that  up  there  sits  Jehovah,  the  jealous 
God,  the  Almighty,  Whose  eye  is  upon  you,  ever 
watchful,  never  weary.  You  remember  that  at 
His  coming  the  whole  earth  will  shake  into  one 
ruined  graveyard;  the  cold,  bright  angels  will  drive 
you  this  way  and  that,  and  there  will  be  no  time  to 
explain  what  could  be  explained  so  simply.  ... 
But  to-night  it  seemed  to  Linda  there  was  some- 
thing infinitely  joyful  and  loving  in  those  silver 
beams.  And  now  no  sound  came  from  the  sea. 
It  breathed  softly  as  if  it  would  draw  that  tender, 
joyful  beauty  into  its  own  bosom. 

"It's  all  wrong,  it's  all  wrong,"  came  the  shad- 
owy voice  of  Jonathan.  "It's  not  the  scene,  it's 
not  the  setting  for  .  .  .  three  stools,  three  desks, 
three  inkpots  and  a  wire  blind." 

Linda  knew  that  he  would  never  change,  but 
she  said,  "Is  it  too  late,  even  now?" 

"I'm  old — I'm  old,"  intoned  Jonathan.  He  bent 
to^^/ards  her,  he  passed  his  hand  over  his  head. 
•'Look!"  His  black  hair  was  speckled  all  over 
with  silver,  like  the  breast  plumage  of  a  black  fowl. 

Linda  was  surprised.  She  had  no  idea  that  he 
was  grey.  And  yet,  as  he  stood  up  beside  her  and 
sighed  and  stretched,  she  saw  him,  for  the  first  time, 
not  resolute,  not  gallant,  not  careless,  but  touched 
already  with   age.     He   looked  very  tall   on  the 

49 


At  the  Bay 

darkening  grass,  and  the  thought  crossed  her  mindr 
*'He  Is  like  a  weed." 

Jonathan  stooped  again  and  kissed  her  fingers. 

''Heaven  reward  thy  sweet  patience,  lady  mine,*' 
he  murmured.  "I  must  go  seek  those  heirs  to  my 
fame  and  fortune.  .  .  .f     He  was  gone. 


XI 

Light  shone  In  the  windows  of  the  bungalow- 
Two  square  patches  of  gold  fell  upon  the  pinks 
and  the  peaked  marigolds.  Florrie,  the  cat,  came 
out  on  to  the  veranda,  and  sat  on  the  top  step,  her 
white  paws  close  together,  her  tail  curled  round. 
She  looked  content,  as  though  she  had  been  wait- 
ing for  this  moment  all  day. 

"Thank  goodness,  It's  getting  late,"  said  Florrie. 
"Thank  goodness,  the  long  day  is  over."  Her 
greengage  eyes  opened. 

Presently  there  sounded  the  rumble  of  the  coach, 
the  crack  of  Kelly's  whip.  It  came  near  enough  for 
one  to  hear  the  voices  of  the  men  from  town,  talk- 
ing loudly  together.  It  stopped  at  the  Burnells' 
gate. 

Stanley  was  half-way  up  the  path  before  he  saw 
Linda.     "Is  that  you,  darling?" 

"Yes,  Stanley." 

He  leapt  across  the  flower-bed  and  seized  her 
zn  his  arms.  She  was  enfolded  in  that  familiar, 
3;ager,  strong  embrace. 

50 


At  the  Bay 

*Torgive  me,  darling,  forgive  me,"  stammered 
Stanley,  and  he  put  his  hand  under  her  chin  and 
lifted  her  face  to  him. 

^'Forgive  you?"  smiled  Linda.  "But  whatever 
for?" 

"Good  God!  You  can't  have  forgotten,"  cried 
Stanley  Burnell.  "I've  thought  of  nothing  else  all 
day.  IVe  had  the  hell  of  a  day.  I  made  up  my 
mind  to  dash  out  and  telegraph,  and  then  I  thought 
the  wire  mightn't  reach  you  before  I  did.  I've 
been  in  tortures,  Linda." 

"But  Stanley,"  said  Linda,  "what  must  I  forgive 
you  for?" 

"Linda  !" — Stanley  was  very  hurt — "didn't  you 
realize — you  must  have  realized — I  went  away 
without  saying  good-bye  to  you  this  morning?  I 
can't  imagine  how  I  can  have  done  such  a  thing. 
My  confounded  temper,  of  course.  But — well" — 
and  he  sighed  and  took  her  in  his  arms  again — 
"I've  suffered  for  it  enough  to-day." 

"What's  that  you've  got  in  your  hand?"  asked 
Linda.     "New  gloves?     Let  me  see." 

"Oh,  just  a  cheap  pair  of  wash-leather  ones,"  said 
Stanley  humbly.  "I  noticed  Bell  was  wearing  some 
In  the  coach  this  morning,  so,  as  I  was  passing  the 
shop,  I  dashed  In  and  got  myself  a  pair.  What 
are  you  smiling  at?  You  don't  think  it  was  wring 
of  me,  do  you?" 

"On  the  co«-trary,  darling,"  said  Linda,  "I  think 
It  was  most  sensible." 

51 


»> 


At  the  Bay 

She  pulled  one  of  the  large,  pale  gloves  on  her 
own  fingers  and  looked  at  her  hand,  turning  it  this 
way  and  that.     She  was  still  smiling. 

Stanley  wanted  to  say,  "I  was  thinking  of  you  the 
whole  time  I  bought  them."  It  was  true,  but  for 
some  reason  he  couldn't  say  it.  "Let's  go  in, 
said  he. 


XII 

Why  does  one  feel  so  different  at  night?  Why 
is  it  so  exciting  to  be  awake  when  everybody  else  is 
asleep?  Late — it  is  very  late!  And  yet  every 
moment  you  feel  more  and  more  wakeful,  as  though 
you  were  slowly,  almost  with  every  breath,  waking 
::p  into  a  new,  wonderful,  far  more  thrilling  and 
exciting  world  than  the  daylight  one.  And  what  is 
this  queer  sensation  that  you're  a  conspirator? 
Lightly,  stealthily  you  move  about  your  room. 
You  take  something  off  the  dressing-table  and  put 
it  down  again  without  a  sound.  And  everything, 
even  the  bed-post,  knows  you,  responds,  shares  your 
secret.  .  .  . 

You're  not  very  fond  of  your  room  by  day. 
You  never  think  about  it.  You're  in  and  out,  the 
door  opens  and  slams,  the  cupboard  creaks.  You 
sit  down  on  the  side  of  your  bed,  change  your  shoes 
and  dash  out  again.  A  dive  down  to  the  glass, 
two  pins  in  your  hair,  powder  your  nose  and  off 
again.     But  now — it's  suddenly  dear  to  you.     It's 

52 


At  the  Bay 

a  darling  little  funny  room.  It's  yours.  Oh,  what 
a  joy  it  is  to  own  things !     Mine — my  own ! 

"My  very  own  for  ever?** 

"Yes."     Their  lips  met. 

No,  of  course,  that  had  nothing  to  do  with  it. 
That  was  all  nonsense  and  rubbish.  But,  in  spite 
of  herself.  Beryl  saw  so  plainly  two  people  stand- 
ing in  the  middle  of  her  room.  Her  arms  were 
round  his  neck;  he  held  her.  And  now  he  whis- 
pered, "My  beauty,  my  little  beauty  I"  She  jumped 
off  her  bed,  ran  over  to  the  window  and  kneeled  on 
the  window-seat,  with  her  elbows  on  the  sill.  But 
the  beautiful  night,  the  garden,  every  bush,  every 
leaf,  even  the  white  palings,  even  the  stars,  were 
conspirators  too.  So  bright  was  the  moon  that 
the  flowers  were  bright  as  by  day;  the  shadow 
of  the  nasturtiums,  exquisite  lily-like  leave^  and 
wide-open  flowers,  lay  across  the  silvery  ver- 
anda. The  manuka-tree,  bent  by  the  southerly 
winds,  was  like  a  bird  on  one  leg  stretching  out  a 
wing. 

But  when  Beryl  looked  at  the  bush,  it  seemed  to 
her  the  bush  was  sad. 

"We  are  dumb  trees,  reaching  up  in  the  night, 
imploring  we  know  not  what,'*  said  the  sorrowful 
bush. 

It  Is  true  when  you  are  by  yourself  and  you  think 
about  life,  it  is  always  sad.  All  that  excitement 
and  so  on  has  a  way  of  suddenly  leaving  you,  and 
it's  as  though,  in  the  silence,  somebody  called  your 

53 


x\t  the  Bay 

name,  and  you  heard  your  name  for  the  first  time. 
"Beryl!'' 

'Tes,  I'm  here.     I'm  Beryl.     Who  wants  me?" 

"Beryl!" 

"Let  me  come." 

It  is  lonely  living  by  oneself.  Of  course,  there 
are  relations,  friends,,  heaps  of  them;  but  that's  not 
what  she  means.  She  wants  some  one  who  will  find 
the  Beryl  they  none  of  them  know,  who  will  expect 
her  to  be  that  Beryl  always.     She  wants  a  lover. 

"Take  me  away  from  all  these  other  people,  my 
love.  Let  us  go  far  away.  Let  us  live  our  life, 
all  new,  all  ours,  from  the  very  beginning.  Let  us 
make  our  fire.  Let  us  sit  down  to  eat  together. 
Let  us  have  long  talks  at  night." 

And  the  thought  was  almost,  "Save  me,  my  love. 
Save  me!" 

.  .  .  "Oh,  go  on!  Don't  be  a  prude,  my  dear. 
You  enjoy  yourself  while  you're  young.  That's  my 
advice."  And  a  high  rush  of  silly  laughter  joined 
Mrs.  Harry  Kember's  loud,  indifferent  neigh. 

You  see,  it's  so  frightfully  difficult  when  you've 
nobody.  You're  so  at  the  mercy  of  things.  You 
can't  just  be  rude.  And  you've  always  this  horror 
of  seeming  inexperienced  and  stuffy  like  the  other 
ninnies  at  the  Bay.  And — and  it's  fascinating  to 
know  you've  power  over  people.  Yes,  that  is  fas- 
<!inating.  ... 

Oh  why,  oh  why  doesn't  "he"  come  soon? 

54 


At  the  Bay 

If  I  go  on  living  here,  thought  Beryl,  anything 
may  happen  to  me. 

"But  how  do  you  know  he  is  coming  at  all?*' 
mocked  a  small  voice  within  her. 

But  Beryl  dismissed  it.  She  couldn't  be  left. 
Other  people,  perhaps,  but  not  she.  It  wasn't 
possible  to  think  that  Beryl  Fairfield  never  married, 
that  lovely  fascinating  girl. 

"Do  you  remember  Beryl  Fairfield?" 

"Remember  her  I  As  if  I  could  forget  her  I  It 
was  one  summer  at  the  Bay  that  I  saw  her.  She 
was  standing  on  the  beach  in  a  blue" — no,  pink — 
"muslin  frock,  holding  on  a  big  cream" — no,  black 
— "straw  hat.     But  It's  years  ago  now." 

"She's  as  lovely  as  ever,  more  so  if  anything." 

Beryl  smiled,  bit  her  lip,  and  gazed  over  the  gar- 
den. As  she  gazed,  she  saw  somebody,  a  man, 
leave  the  road,  step  along  the  paddock  beside  their 
palings  as  if  he  was  coming  straight  towards  her. 
Her  heart  beat.  Who  was  it?  Who  could  it  be? 
It  couldn't  be  a  burglar,  certainly  not  a  burglar, 
for  he  was  smoking  and  he  strolled  lightly. 
Beryl's  heart  leapt;  it  seemed  to  turn  right  over,  and 
then  to  stop.     She  recognized  him. 

"Good  evening.  Miss  Beryl,"  said  the  voice 
softly. 

"Good  evening." 

"Won't  you  come  for  a  little  walk?"  it  drawled. 

Come  for  a  walk — at  that  time  of  night  I     "I 

ss 


At  the  Bay 

couldn't.  Everybody's  In  bed.  Everybody's 
asleep." 

"Oh,"  said  the  voice  lightly,  and  a  whiff  of  sweet 
smoke  reached  her.  *'What  does  everybody 
matter?  Do  come!  It's  such  a  fine  night. 
There's  not  a  soul  about." 

Beryl  shook  her  head.  But  already  something 
stirred  In  her,  something  reared  Its  head. 

The  voice  said,  "Frightened?"  It  mocked, 
"Poor  little  girl!" 

"Not  In  the  least,"  said  she.  As  she  spoke  that 
weak  thing  within  her  seemed  to  uncoil,  to  grow 
suddenly  tremendously  strong;  she  longed  to  go! 

And  just  as  if  this  was  quite  understood  by  the 
other,  the  voice  said,  gently  and  softly,  but  finally, 
"Come  along!" 

Beryl  stepped  over  her  low  window,  crossed  the 
veranda,  ran  down  the  grass  to  the  gate.  He  was 
there  before  her. 

"That's  right,"  breathed  the  voice,  and  It  teased, 
"You're  not  frightened,  are  you?  You're  not 
frightened?" 

She  was;  now  she  was  here  she  was  terrified,  and 
It  seemed  to  her  everything  was  different.  The 
moonlight  stared  and  glittered;  the  shadows  were 
like  bars  of  iron.     Her  hand  was  taken. 

"Not  in  the  least,"  she  said  lightly.  "Why 
should  I  be?" 

Her  hand  was  pulled  gently,  tugged.  She  held 
back. 

56 


At  the  Bay 

'*No,  I'm  not  coming  any  farther,"  said  Beryl. 

"Oh,  rot!"  Harry  Kember  didn't  believe  her. 
"Come  along!  We'll  just  go  as  far  as  that  fuchsia 
bush.     Come  along!" 

The  fuchsia  bush  was  tall.  It  fell  over  the  fence 
in  a  shower.  There  was  a  little  pit  of  darkness  be- 
neath. 

*'No,  really,  I  don't  want  to,"  said  Beryl. 

For  a  moment  Harry  Kember  didn't  answer. 
Then  he  came  close  to  her,  turned  to  her,  smiled 
and  said  quickly,  "Don't  be  silly!   Don't  be  silly!" 

His  smile  was  something  she'd  never  seen  before. 
Was  he  drunk?  That  bright,  blind,  terrifying 
smile  froze  her  with  horror.  What  was  she  doing? 
How  had  she  got  here?  the  stern  garden  asked  her 
as  the  gate  pushed  open,  and  quick  as  a  cat  Harry 
Kember  came  through  and  snatched  her   to  him. 

"Cold  little  devil!  Cold  little  devil!"  said  the 
hateful  voice. 

But  Beryl  was  strong.  She  slipped,  ducked, 
wrenched  free. 

"You  are  vile,  vile,"  said  she., 

"Then  why  in  God's  name  did  you  come?"  stam- 
mered Harry  Kember. 

Nobody  answered  him. 


XIII 

A  cloud,  small,  serene,  floated  across  the  moon. 
57 


At  the  Bay 

In  that  moment  of  darkness  the  sea  sounded 
deep,  troubled.  Then  the  cloud  sailed  away, 
and  the  sound  of  the  sea  was  a  vague  murmur, 
as  though  it  waked  out  of  a  dark  dream.  All  was 
still. 


58 


THE  GARDEN-PARTY 

AND  after  all  the  weather  was  ideal.  They 
could  not  have  had  a  more  perfect  day  for 
a  garden-party  if  they  had  ordered  It. 
Windless,  warm,  the  sky  without  a  cloud.  Only 
the  blue  was  veiled  with  a  haze  of  light  gold,  as 
It  Is  sometimes  in  early  summer.  The  gardener 
had  been  up  since  dawn,  mowing  the  lawns  and 
sweeping  them,  until  the  grass  and  the  dark  flat 
rosettes  where  the  daisy  plants  had  been  seemed  to 
shine.  As  for  the  roses,  you  could  not  help  feeling 
they  understood  that  roses  are  the  only  flowers  that 
impress  people  at  garden-parties;  the  only  flowers 
that  everybody  Is  certain  of  knowing.  Hundreds, 
yes,  literally  hundreds,  had  come  out  in  a  single 
night;  the  green  bushes  bowed  down  as  though  they 
had  been  visited  by  archangels. 

Breakfast  was  not  yet  over  before  the  men  came 
to  put  up  the  marquee. 

^'Where  do  you  want  the  marquee  put,  mother?'^ 

*'My  dear  child,  it's  no  use  asking  me.  I'm  de- 
termined to  leave  everything  to  you  children  this 
year.  Forget  I  am  your  mother.  Treat  me  as 
an  honoured  guest." 

But  Meg  could  not  possibly  go  and  supervise  the 

59 


The  Garden-Party 

men.  She  had  washed  her  hair  before  breakfast, 
and  she  sat  drinking  her  coffee  in  a  green  turban, 
with  a  dark  wet  curl  stamped  on  each  cheek.  Jose, 
the  butterfly,  always  came  down  in  a  silk  petticoat 
and  a  kimono  jacket. 

^'You'll  have  to  go,  Laura;  you're  the  artistic 


one. 


Away  Laura  flew,  still  holding  her  piece  of  bread- 
and-butter.  It's  so  delicious  to  have  an  excuse  for 
eating  out  of  doors,  and  besides,  she  loved  having  to 
arrange  things;  she  always  felt  she  could  do  it  so 
much  better  than  anybody  else. 

Four  men  in  their  shirt-sleeves  stood  grouped  to- 
gether on  the  garden  path.  They  carried  staves 
covered  with  rolls  of  canvas,  and  they  had  big  tool- 
bags  slung  on  their  backs.  They  looked  impressive. 
Laura  wished  now  that  she  had  not  got  the  bread- 
and-butter,  but  there  was  nowhere  to  put  it,  and  she 
couldn't  possibly  throw  it  away.  She  blushed  and 
tried  to  look  severe  and  even  a  little  bit  short-sighted 
as  she  came  up  to  them. 

"Good  morning,"  she  said,  copying  her  mother's 
voice.  But  that  sounded  so  fearfully  affected  that 
she  was  ashamed,  and  stammered  like  a  little  girl, 
"Oh — er — have  you  come — is  it  about  the  mar- 
quee?" 

"That's  right,  miss,"  said  the  tallest  of  the  men, 
a  lanky,  freckled  fellow,  and  he  shifted  his  tool-bag, 
knocked  back  his  straw  hat  and  smiled  down  at  her. 
"That's  about  it." 

60 


The  Garden- Party 

His  smile  was  so  easy,  so  friendly  that  Laura 
recovered.  What  nice  eyes  he  had,  small,  but  such 
a  dark  blue!  And  now  she  looked  at  the  others, 
they  were  smiling  too.  "Cheer  up,  we  won't  bite,** 
their  smile  seemed  to  say.  How  very  nice  workmen 
were!  And  what  a  beautiful  morning!  She 
mustn't  mention  the  morning;  she  must  be  business- 
like.    The  marquee. 

"Well,  what  about  the  lily-lawn?  Would  that 
do?" 

And  she  pointed  to  the  lily-lawn  with  the  hand 
that  didn't  hold  the  bread-and-butter.  They  turned, 
they  stared  in  the  direction.  A  little  fat  chap  thrust 
out  his  under-lip,  and  the  tall  fellow  frowned. 

"I  don't  fancy  it,"  said  he.  "Not  conspicuous 
enough.  You  see,  with  a  thing  like  a  marquee,"  and 
he  turned  to  Laura  in  his  easy  way,  "you  want  to  put 
it  somewhere  where  it'll  give  you  a  bang  slap  In  the 
eye,  if  you  follow  me." 

Laura's  upbringing  made  her  wonder  for  a  mo- 
ment whether  it  was  quite  respectful  of  a  workman 
to  talk  to  her  of  bangs  slap  in  the  eye.  But  she  did 
quite  follow  him. 

"A  corner  of  the  tennis-court,"  she  suggested. 
"But  the  band's  going  to  be  in  one  corner." 

"H'm,  going  to  have  a  band,  are  you?"  said  an- 
other of  the  workmen.  He  was  pale.  He  had  a 
haggard  look  as  his  dark  eyes  scanned  the  tennis- 
court.     What  was  he  thinking? 

"Only  a  very  small  band,"  said  Laura  gently. 
6i 


The  Garden-Party 

Perhaps  he  wouldn't  mind  so  much  if  the  band  was 
quite  small.     But  the  tall  fellow  interrupted. 

"Look  here,  miss,  that's  the  place.  Against  those, 
trees.     Over  there.     That'll  do  fine." 

Against  the  karakas.  Then  the  karaka-trees 
would  be  hidden.  And  they  were  so  lovely,  with 
their  broad,  gleaming  leaves,  and  their  clusters  of 
yellow  fruit.  They  were  like  trees  you  imagined 
growing  on  a  desert  island,  proud,  solitary,  lift- 
ing their  leaves  and  fruits  to  the  sun  in  a  kind  of 
silent  splendour.  Must  they  be  hidden  by  a  mar- 
quee? 

They  must.  Already  the  men  had  shouldered 
their  staves  and  were  making  for  the  place.  Only 
the  tall  fellow  was  left.  He  bent  down,  pinched  a 
sprig  of  lavender,  put  his  thumb  and  forefinger  to 
his  nose  and  snuffed  up  the  smell.  When  Laura 
saw  that  gesture  she  forgot  all  about  the  karakas  in 
her  wonder  at  him  caring  for  things  like  that — car- 
ing for  the  smell  of  lavender.  How  many  men 
that  she  knew  would  have  done  such  a  thing?  Oh, 
how  extraordinarily  nice  workmen  were,  she 
thought.  Why  couldn't  she  have  workmen  for 
friends  rather  than  the  silly  boys  she  danced  wid^ 
and  who  came  to  Sunday  night  supper  ?  She  would 
get  on  much  better  with  men  like  these. 

It's  all  the  fault,  she  decided,  as  the  tall  fellow 
drew  something  on  the  back  of  an  envelope,  some- 
thing that  was  to  be  looped  up  or  left  to  hang,  of 
these  absurd  class  distinctions.     Well,  for  her  part, 

62 


The  Garden-Party 

she  didn't  feel  them.  Not  a  bit,  not  an  atom.  .  .  . 
And  now  there  came  the  chock-chock  of  wooden 
hammers.  Some  one  whistled,  some  one  sang  out, 
*'Are  you  right  there,  matey?"     ''Matey T'     The 

friendliness  of  it,  the — the Just  to  prove  how 

happy  she  was,  just  to  show  the  tall  fellow  how  at 
home  she  felt,  and  how  she  despised  stupid  conven- 
tions, Laura  took  a  big  bite  of  her  bread-and-butter 
as  she  stared  at  the  little  drawing.  She  felt  just 
like  a  work-girl. 

"Laura,  Laura,  where  are  you?  Telephone, 
Laura !"  a  voice  cried  from  the  house. 

''Coming!"  Away  she  skimmed,  over  the  lawn, 
up  the  path,  up  the  steps,  across  the  veranda,  and 
into  the  porch.  In  the  hall  her  father  and  Laurie 
were  brushing  their  hats  ready  to  go  to  the  office. 

"I  say,  Laura,"  said  Laurie  very  fast,  "you 
might  just  give  a  squiz  at  my  coat  before  this  after- 
noon.    See  if  it  wants  pressing." 

"I  will,"  said  she.  Suddenly  she  couldn't  stop 
herself.  She  ran  at  Laurie  and  gave  him  a  small, 
quick  squeeze.  "Oh,  I  do  love  parties,  don't  you?" 
gasped  Laura. 

"Ra-ther,"  said  Laurie's  warm,  boyish  voice, 
and  he  squeezed  his  sister  too,  and  gave  her  a  gentle 
push.     "Dash  off  to  the  telephone,  old  girl." 

The  telephone.  "Yes,  yes;  oh  yes.  Kitty? 
Good  morning,  dear.  Come  to  lunch?  Do,  dear. 
Delighted  of  course.  It  will  only  be  a  very  scratch 
meal — just  the  sandwich  crusts  and  broken  mer- 

63 


The  Garden-Party 

ingue-shells  and  what's  left  over.  Yes,  isn't  It  a  per- 
fect morning?  Your  white?  Oh,  I  certainly 
should.  One  moment — hold  the  line.  Mother's 
calling."  And  Laura  sat  back.  "What,  mother? 
Can't  hear." 

Mrs.  Sheridan's  voice  floated  down  the  stairs. 
"Tell  her  to  wear  that  sweet  hat  she  had  on  last 
Sunday." 

"Mother  says  you're  to  wear  that  sweet  hat  you 
had  on  last  Sunday.  Good.  One  o'clock.  Bye- 
bye." 

Laura  put  back  the  receiver,  flung  her  arms  over 
her  head,  took  a  deep  breath,  stretched  and  let  them 
fall.  "Huh,"  she  sighed,  and  the  moment  after  the 
sigh  she  sat  up  quickly.  She  was  still,  listening. 
All  the  doors  in  the  house  seemed  to  be  open.  The 
house  was  alive  with  soft,  quick  steps  and  running 
voices.  The  green  baize  door  that  led  to  the  kit- 
chen regions  swung  open  and  shut  with  a  muffled 
thud.  And  now  there  came  a  long,  chuckling  ab- 
surd sound.  It  was  the  heavy  piano  being  moved  on 
its  stiff  castors.  But  the  air!  If  you  stopped  to 
notice,  was  the  air  always  like  this?  Little  faint 
winds  were  playing  chase,  in  at  the  tops  of  the  win- 
dows, out  at  the  doors.  And  there  were  two  tiny 
spots  of  sun,  one  on  the  inkpot,  one  on  a  silver 
photograph  frame,  playing  too.  Darling  little 
spots.  Especially  the  one  on  the  inkpot  lid.  It 
was  quite  warm.  A  warm  little  silver  star.  She 
could  have  kissed  it. 

64 


The  Garden-Party 

The  front  door  bell  pealed,  and  there  sounded  the 
rustle  of  Sadie's  print  skirt  on  the  stairs.  A  man's 
voice  murmured;  Sadie  answered,  careless,  'Tm 
sure  I  don't  know.  Wait.  I'll  ask  Mrs.  Sheridan." 

"What  is  it,  Sadie?"     Laura  came  into  the  hall. 

"It's  the  florist.  Miss  Laura." 

It  was,  indeed.  There,  just  inside  the  door, 
stood  a  wide,  shallow  tray  full  of  pots  of  pink  lilies. 
No  other  kind.  Nothing  but  lilies — canna  lilies, 
big  pink  flowers,  wide  open,  radiant,  almost  fright- 
eningly  alive  on  bright  crimson  stems. 

"0-oh,  Sadie !"  said  Laura,  and  the  sound  was 
like  a  little  moan.  She  crouched  down  as  if  to 
warm  herself  at  that  blaze  of  lilies;  she  felt  they 
were  in  her  fingers,  on  her  lips,  growing  in  her 
breast. 

"It's  some  mistake,"  she  said  faintly.  "No- 
body ever  ordered  so  many.  Sadie,  go  and  find 
mother." 

But  at  that  moment  Mrs.  Sheridan  joined  them. 

"It's  quite  right,"  she  said  calmly.  "Yes,  I  or- 
dered them.  Aren't  they  lovely?"  She  pressed 
Laura's  arm.  "I  was  passing  the  shop  yesterday, 
and  I  saw  them  in  the  window.  And  I  suddenly 
thought  for  once  in  my  life  I  shall  have  enough 
canna  lilies.     The  garden-party  will  be  a  good  ex- 


cuse." 


"But  I  thought  you  said  you  didn't  mean  to  inter- 
fere," said  Laura.  Sadie  had  gone.  The  florist's 
man  was  still  outside  at  his  van.     She  put  her  arm 

6s 


The  Garden-Party 

round  her  mother's  neck  and  gently,  very  gently,  she 
bit  her  mother's  ear. 

''My  darling  child,  you  wouldn't  like  a  logical 
mother,  would  you?  Don't  do  that.  Here's  the 
man." 

He  carried  more  Hlles  still,  another  whole  tray. 

"Bank  them  up,  just  Inside  the  door,  on  both  sides 
of  the  porch,  please,"  said  Mrs.  Sheridan.  "Don't 
you  agree,  Laura?" 

"Oh,  I  do,  mother." 

In  the  drawing-room  Meg,  Jose  and  good  little 
Hans  had  at  last  succeeded  in  moving  the  piano. 

"Now,  if  we  put  this  chesterfield  against  the  wall 
and  move  everything  out  of  the  room  except  th<*. 
chairs,  don't  you  think?" 

"Quite." 

"Hans,  move  these  tables  into  the  smoking-room, 
and  bring  a  sweeper  to  take  these  marks  off  the 

carpet  and — one  moment,   Hans "  Jose  loved 

giving  orders  to  the  servants,  and  they  loved  obey- 
ing her.  She  always  made  them  feel  they  were 
taking  part  in  some  drama.  "Tell  mother  and 
Miss  Laura  to  come  here  at  once." 

"Very  good.  Miss  Jose." 

She  turned  to  Meg.  "I  want  to  hear  what  the 
piano  sounds  like,  just  in  case  I'm  asked  to  sing 
this  afternoon.  Let's  try  over  'This  life  is  Weary.'  " 

Pom!  Ta-ta-ta  Tee-  ta !  The  piano  burst  out  so 
passionately  that  Jose's  face  changed.  She  clasped 
her  hands.     She  looked  mournfully  and  enigmat- 

66 


The  GARDEN-Pi\RTY 
ically  at  her  mother  and  Laura  as  they  came  in. 

This    Life    is    ^e^-ary, 

A  Tear — a  Sigh. 

A  Love  that  Chan-gtSy 

This  Life  is  Wee-a,Ty, 
A  Tear — a  Sigh. 
A  Love  that  Chan-geSy 
And  then  .  .  .  Good-bye! 

But  at  the  word  "Good-bye,"  and  although  the 
piano  sounded  more  desperate  than  ever,  her  face 
broke  into  a  brilliant,  dreadfully  unsympathetic 
smile. 

"Aren't  I  in  good  voice,  mummy?"  she  beamed. 

This    Life    is    ^^e-ary, 

Hope  comes  to  Die. 

A  Dream — a  ^a-kening. 

But  now  Sadie  interrupted  them.  "What  is  it, 
Sadie?" 

"If  you  please,  m'm,  cook  says  have  you  got  the 
flags  for  the  sandwiches?" 

"The  flags  for  the  sandwiches,  Sadie?"  echoed 
Mrs.  Sheridan  dreamily.  And  the  children  knew 
by  her  face  that  she  hadn't  got  them.  "Let  me 
see."  And  she  said  to  Sadie  firmly,  "Tell  cook  I'll 
let  her  have  them  in  ten  minutes." 

Sadie  went. 

"Now,  Laura,"  said  her  mother  quickly.  "Come 
with    me    into    the    smoking-room.     I've    got    the 

67 


The  Gi\RDEN-PARTY 

names  somewhere  on  the  back  of  an  env^elope. 
You'll  have  to  write  them  out  for  me.  Meg,  go 
upstairs  this  minute  and  take  that  wet  thing  off  your 
head.  Jose,  run  and  finish  dressing  this  instant. 
Do  you  hear  me,  children,  or  shall  I  have  to  tell 
your  father  when  he  comes  home  to-night?  And — 
and,  Jose,  pacify  cook  if  you  do  go  into  the  kitchen, 
will  you?     I'm  terrified  of  her  this  morning." 

The  envelope  was  found  at  last  behind  the  din- 
ing-room clock,  though  how  it  had  got  there  Mrs. 
Sheridan  could  not  Imagine. 

"One  of  you  children  must  have  stolen  It  out  of 

my    bag,    because    I    remember    vividly cream 

cheese  and  lemon-curd.     Have  you  done  that)?" 

"Yes." 

"Egg  and "  Mrs.  Sheridan  held  the  envelope 

away  from  her.  "It  looks  like  mice.  It  can't  be 
mice,  can  It?" 

"Olive,  pet,"  said  Laura,  looking  over  her  shoul- 
der. 

"Yes,  of  course,  olive.  What  a  horrible  com- 
bination it  sounds.     Egg  and  olive." 

They  were  finished  at  last,  and  Laura  took  them 
off  to  the  kitchen.  She  found  Jose  there  pacifying 
the  cook,  who  did  not  look  at  all  terrifying. 

"I  have  never  seen  such  exquisite  sandwiches," 
said  Jose's  rapturous  voice.  "How  many  kinds  did 
you  say  there  were,  cook?     Fifteen?" 

"Fifteen,  Miss  Jose." 

"Well,  cook,  I  congratulate  you.)" 
68 


The  Garden-Party 

Cook  swept  up  crusts  with  the  long  sandwich 
knife,  and  smiled  broadly. 

**Godber's  has  come/'  announced  Sadie,  issuing 
out  of  the  pantry.  She  had  seen  the  man  pass  the 
window. 

That  meant  the  cream  puffs  had  come.  Godber's 
were  famous  for  their  cream  puffs.  Nobody  ever 
thought  of  making  them  at  home. 

"Bring  them  in  and  put  them  on  the  table,  my 
girl,"  ordered  cook. 

Sadie  brought  them  in  and  went  back  to  the  door. 
Of  course  Laura  and  Jose  were  far  too  grown-up  to 
really  care  about  such  things.  All  the  same,  they 
couldn't  help  agreeing  that  the  puffs  looked  very 
attractive.  Very.  Cook  began  arranging  them, 
shaking  off  the  extra  icing  sugar. 

''Don't  they  carry  one  back  to  all  one's  parties?'* 
said  Laura. 

*'I  suppose  they  do,"  said  practical  Jose,  who 
never  liked  to  be  carried  back.  "They  look  beauti- 
fully light  and  feathery,  I  must  say." 

"Have  one  each,  my  dears,"  said  cook  in  her 
comiortable  voice.     "Yer  ma  won't  know." 

Oh,  impossible.  Fancy  cream  puffs  so  soon  after 
breakfast.  The  very  idea  made  one  shudder.  All 
the  same,  two  minutes  later  Jose  and  Laura  were 
licking  their  fingers  with  that  absorbed  inward  look 
that  only  comes  from  whipped  cream. 

"Let's  go  into  the  garden,  out  by  the  back  way," 
suggested  Laura.     "I  want  to  see  how  the  men  are 

69 


The  Garden-Party 

getting  on  with  the  marquee.  They're  such  awfully 
nice  men.'* 

But  the  back  door  was  blocked  by  cook,  Sadie, 
Godber's  man  and  Hans. 

Something  had  happened. 

^'Tuk-tuk-tuk,"  clucked  cook  like  an  agitated 
hen.  Sadie  had  her  hand  clapped  to  her  cheek  as 
though  she  had  toothache.  Hans's  face  was 
screwed  up  in  the  effort  to  understand.  Only  God- 
ber's  man  seemed  to  be  enjoying  himself;  it  was  his 
story. 

*' What's  the  matter?     What's  happened?" 

"There's  been  a  horrible  accident,"  said  Cook. 
"A  man  killed." 

"A     man     killed!     Where?     How?     When?" 

But  Godber's  man  wasn't  going  to  have  his  story 
snatched  from  under  his  very  nose. 

"Know  those  little  cottages  just  below  here, 
miss?"  Know  them?  Of  course,  she  knew  them. 
"Well,  there's  a  young  chap  living  there,  name  of 
Scott,  a  carter.  His  horse  shied  at  a  traction-en- 
gine, corner  of  Hawke  Street  this  morning,  and  he 
was  thrown  out  on  the  back  of  his  head.     Killed." 

"Dead!"     Laura  stared  at  Godber's  man. 

"Dead  when  they  picked  him  up,"  said  Godber's 
man  with  relish.  "They  were  taking  the  body 
home  as  I  come  up  here."  And  he  said  to  the  cook, 
"He's  left  a  wife  and  five  little  ones." 

"Jose,  come  here."  Laura  caught  hold  of  her 
sister's  sleeve  and  dragged  her  through  the  kitchen 

70 


The  Garden- Party 

to  the  other  side  of  the  green  baize  door.  There 
she  paused  and  leaned  against  it.  ^'Jose !"  she  said, 
horrified,  "however  are  we  going  to  stop  every- 
thing?" 

"Stop  everything,  Laura!"  cried  Jose  in  as- 
tonishment.    "What  do  you  mean?" 

"Stop  the  garden-party,  of  course."  Why  did 
Jose  pretend? 

But  Jose  was  still  more  amazed.  "Stop  the  gar- 
den-party? My  dear  Laura,  don't  be  so  absurd. 
Of  course  we  can't  do  anything  of  the  kind.  No- 
body expects  us  to.     Don't  be  so  extravagant." 

"But  we  can't  possibly  have  a  garden-party  with 
a  man  dead  just  outside  the  front  gate." 

That  really  was  extravagant,  for  the  little  cofc* 
tages  were  in  a  lane  to  themselves  at  the  very  bot- 
tom of  a  steep  rise  that  led  up  to  the  house.  A 
broad  road  ran  between.  True,  they  were  far  too 
near.  They  were  the  greatest  possible  eyesore,  and 
they  had  no  right  to  be  in  that  neighbourhood  at 
all.  They  were  little  mean  dwellings  painted  a 
chocolate  brown.  In  the  garden  patches  there  was 
nothing  but  cabbage  stalks,  sick  hens  and  tomato 
cans.  The  very  smoke  coming  out  of  their  chim- 
neys was  poverty-stricken.  Little  rags  and  shreds 
of  smoke,  so  unlike  the  great  silvery  plumes  that  un- 
curled from  the  Sheridans'  chimneys.  Washer- 
women lived  in  the  lane  and  sweeps  and  a  cobbler, 
and  a  man  whose  house-front  was  studded  all 
over  with  minute  bird-cages.     Children  swarmed. 

71 


The  Garden-Party 

When  the  Sheridans  were  little  they  were  forbidden 
to  set  foot  there  because  of  the  revolting  language 
and  of  what  they  might  catch.  But  since  they  were 
grown  up,  Laura  and  Laurie  on  their  prowls  some- 
times walked  through.  It  was  disgusting  and  sor- 
did. They  came  out  with  a  shudder.  But  still  one 
must  go  everywhere;  one  must  see  everything. 
So  through  they  went. 

"And  just  think  of  what  the  band  would  sound 
like  to  that  poor  woman,"  said  Laura. 

"Oh,  Laura !"  Jose  began  to  be  seriously  an- 
noyed. "If  you're  going  to  stop  a  band  playing 
every  time  some  one  has  an  accident,  you'll  lead  a 
very  strenuous  life.  I'm  every  bit  as  sorry  about 
it  as  you.  I  feel  just  as  sympathetic."  Her  eyes 
hardened.  She  looked  at  her  sister  just  as  she  used 
to  when  they  were  little  and  fighting  together. 
"You  won't  bring  a  drunken  workman  back  to  life  by 
being  sentimental,"  she  said  softly. 

"Drunk!  Who  said  he  was  drunk?"  Laura 
turned  furiously*  on  Jose.  She  said,  just  as  they 
had  used  to  say  on  those  occasions,  "I'm  going 
straight  up  to  tell  mother." 

"Do,  dear,"  cooed  Jose. 

"Mother,  can  I  come  into  your  room?"  Laura 
turned  the  big  glass  door-knob. 

"Of  course,  child.  Why,  what's  the  matter? 
What's  given  you  such  a  colour?"  And  Mrs. 
Sheridan  turned  round  from  her  dressing-table. 
She  was  trying  on  a  new  hat. 

72 


The  Garden-Party 

"Mother,    a   man's   been  killed,"   began   Laura. 

^'Not  In  the  garden?"  interrupted  her  mother. 

"No,  no!" 

"Oh,  what  a  fright  you  gave  me!"  Mrs.  Sher- 
idan sighed  with  relief,  and  took  off  the  big  hat  and 
held  it  on  her  knees. 

"But  listen,  mother,"  said  Laura.  Breathless, 
half-choking,  she  told  the  dreadful  story.  "Of 
course,  we  can't  have  our  party,  can  we?"  she 
pleaded.  "The  band  and  everybody  arriving. 
They'd  hear  us,  mother;  they're  nearly  neighbours !" 

To  Laura^s  astonishment  her  mother  behaved 
just  like  Jose;  it  was  harder  to  bear  because  she 
seemed  amused.  She  refused  to  take  Laura  seri- 
ously. 

"But,  my  dear  child,  use  your  common  sense. 
It's  only  by  accident  we've  heard  of  it.  If  some 
one  had  died  there  normally — and  I  can't  under- 
stand how  they  keep  alive  in  those  poky  little  holes 
— ^we  should  still  be  having  our  party,  shouldn't 
we?" 

Laura  had  to  say  "yes"  to  that,  but  she  felt  it  was 
all  wrong.  She  sat  down  on  her  mother's  sofa  and 
pinched  the  cushion  frill. 

"Mother,  isn't  it  really  terribly  heartless  of  us?** 
she  asked. 

"Darling!"  Mrs.  Sheridan  got  up  and  came 
ever  to  her,  carrying  the  hat.  Before  Laura  could 
stop  her  she  had  popped  It  on.  "My  child!"  said 
her  mother,  "the  hat  is  yours.     It's  made  for  you. 

73 


The  Garden-Party 

It's  much  too  young  for  me.  I  have  never  seen  you 
look  such  a  picture.  Look  at  yourself!"  And  she 
held  up  her  hand-mirror. 

"But,  mother,"  Laura  began  again.  She  couldn't 
look  at  herself;  she  turned  aside. 

This  time  Mrs.  Sheridan  lost  patience  just  as 
Jose  had  done. 

'Tou  are  being  very  absurd,  Laura,"  she  said 
coldly.  *Teople  like  that  don't  expect  sacrifices 
from  us.  And  it's  not  very  sympathetic  to  spoil 
everybody's  enjoyment  as  you're  doing  now." 

''I  don't  understand,"  said  Laura,  and  she  walked 
quickly  out  of  the  room  into  her  own  bedroom. 
There,  quite  by  chance,  the  first  thing  she  saw  was 
this  charming  girl  in  the  mirror,  in  her  black  hat 
trimmed  with  gold  daisies,  and  a  long  black  velvet 
ribbon.  Never  had  she  imagined  she  could  look 
like  that.  Is  mother  right?  she  thought.  And 
now  she  hoped  her  mother  was  right.  Am  I  being 
extravagant?  Perhaps  it  was  extravagant.  Just 
for  a  moment  she  had  another  glimpse  of  that  poor 
woman  and  those  little  children,  and  the  body  being 
carried  into  the  house.  But  it  all  seemed  blurred, 
unreal,  like  a  picture  in  the  newspaper.  I'll  remem- 
ber it  again  after  the  party's  over,  she  decided. 
And  somehow  that  seemed  quite  the  best  plan.  .  .  . 

Lunch  was  over  by  half-past  one.  By  half-past 
two  they  were  all  ready  for  the  fray.  The  green- 
coated  band  had  arrived  and  was  established  in  a 
corner  of  the  tennis-court. 

74 


The  Garden-Party 

"My  dear!"  trilled  Kitty  Maitland,  "aren't 
they  too  like  frogs  for  words?  You  ought  to  have 
arranged  them  round  the  pond  with  the  conductor 
in  the  middle  on  a  leaf." 

Laurie  arrived  and  hailed  them  on  his  way 
to  dress.  At  the  sight  of  him  Laura  remembered 
the  accident  again.  She  wanted  to  tell  him.  If 
Laurie  agreed  with  the  others,  then  it  was  bound 
to  be  all  right.  And  she  followed  him  into  the 
hall. 

"Laurie!" 

"Hallo!"  He  was  half-way  upstairs,  but  when 
he  turned  round  and  saw  Laura  he  suddenly  puffed 
out  his  cheeks  and  goggled  his  eyes  at  her.  "My 
word,  Laura !  You  do  look  stunning,"  said  Laurie. 
"What  an  absolutely  topping  hat!" 

Laura  said  faintly  "Is  it?"  and  smiled  up  at 
Laurie,  and  didn't  tell  him  after  all. 

Soon  after  that  people  began  coming  in  streams. 
The  band  struck  up;  the  hired  waitCi"^  ran  from  the 
house  to  the  marquee.  Wherever  you  looked  there 
were  couples  strolling,  bending  to  the  flowers,  greet- 
ing, moving  on  over  the  lawn.  They  were  like 
bright  birds  that  had  alighted  in  the  Sheridans'  gar- 
den  for  this  one  afternoon,  on  their  way  to — where? 
Ah,  what  happiness  It  is  to  be  with  people  who  all 
are  happy,  to  press  hands,  press  cheeks,  smile  into 
eyes. 

"Darling  Laura,  how  well  you  look!*' 

"What  a  becoming  hat,  child!" 

75 


The  Garden-Party 

''Laura,  you  look  quite  Spanish.  I've  never  seen 
you  look  so  striking." 

And  Laura,  glowing,  answered  softly,  "Have  you 
had  tea?  Won't  you  have  an  ice?  The  passion- 
fruit  ices  really  are  rather  special."  She  ran  to  her 
father  and  begged  him.  "Daddy  darling,  can't  the 
band  have  something  to  drink?" 

And  the  perfect  afternoon  slowly  ripened,  slowly 
faded,  slowly  its  petals  closed. 

"Never  a  more  delightful  garden-party  .  .  ." 
"The    greatest    success  .  .  ."     "Quite    the    most 

Laura  helped  her  mother  with  the  good-byes. 
They  stood  side  by  side  in  the  porch  till  it  was  all 
over. 

"All  over,  all  over,  thank  heaven,"  said  Mrs. 
Sheridan.  "Round  up  the  others,  Laura.  Let's 
go  and  have  some  fresh  coffee.  I'm  exhausted. 
Yes,  it's  been  very  successful.  But  oh,  these 
parties,  these  parties !  Why  will  you  children  in- 
sist on  giving  parties!"  And  they  all  of  them  sat 
down  in  the  deserted  marquee. 

"Have  a  sandwich,  daddy  dear.  I  wrote  thr 
flag." 

"Thanks."  Mr.  Sheridan  took  a  bite  and  the 
sandwich  was  gone.  He  took  another.  "I  sup- 
pose you  didn't  hear  of  a  beastly  accident  that  hap- 
pened to-day?"  he  said. 

"My  dear,"  said  Mrs.  Sheridan,  holding  up  her 

76 


The  Garden-Party 

hand,  "we  did.  It  nearly  ruined  the  party. 
Laura  insisted  we  should  put  it  off." 

"Oh,  mother!"  Laura  didn't  want  to  be  teased 
about  it. 

"It  was  a  horrible  affair  all  the  same,"  said  Mr. 
Sheridan.  "The  chap  was  married  too.  Lived 
just  below  in  the  lane,  and  leaves  a  wife  and  half  a 
dozen  kiddies,  so  they  say." 

An  awkward  little  silence  fell.  Mrs.  Sheridan 
fidgeted  with  her  cup.  Really,  it  was  very  tactless 
of  father  ... 

Suddenly  she  looked  up.  There  on  the  table 
were  all  those  sandwiches,  cakes,  puffs,  all  uneaten, 
all  going  to  be  wasted.  She  had  one  of  her  bril- 
liant ideas. 

"I  know,"  she  said.  "Let's  make  up  a  basket. 
Let's  send  that  poor  creature  some  of  this  perfectly 
good  food.  At  any  rate,  it  will  be  the  greatest 
treat  for  the  children.  Don't  you  agree?  And 
she's  sure  to  have  neighbours  calling  in  and  so  on. 
What  a  point  to  have  it  all  ready  prepared. 
Laura  1"  She  jumped  up.  "Get  me  the  big  basket 
out  of  the  stairs  cupboard." 

"But,  mother,  do  you  really  think  it's  a  good 
idea?"  said  Laura. 

Again,  how  curious,  she  seemed  to  be  different 
from  them  all.  To  take  scraps  from  their  party. 
Would  the  poor  woman  really  like  that? 

"Of  course!     What's  the  matter  with  you   to- 

n 


The  Garden-Party 

day?  An  hour  or  two  ago  you  were  insisting  on  us 
being  sympathetic,  and  now " 

Oh,  well!  Laura  ran  for  the  basket.  It  was 
filled,  It  was  heaped  by  her  mother. 

''Take  It  yourself,  darling,"  said  she.  "Run 
down  just  as  you  are.  No,  wait,  take  the  arum 
Hlies  too.  People  of  that  class  are  so  Impressed  by 
arum  lilies." 

''The  stems  will  ruin  her  lace  frock,"  said  prac- 
tical Jose. 

So  they  would.  Just  in  time.  "Only  the  basket, 
then.  And,  Laura !" — her  mother  followed  her 
out  of  the  marquee — "don't  on  any  account " 

"What,  mother?" 

No,  better  not  put  such  ideas  Into  the  child's 
head!     "Nothing!     Run  along." 

It  was  just  growing  dusky  as  Laura  shut  their 
garden  gates.  A  big  dog  ran  by  like  a  shadow. 
The  road  gleamed  white,  and  down  below  In  the 
hollow  the  little  cottages  were  in  deep  shade.  How 
quiet  It  seemed  after  the  afternoon.  Here  she  was 
going  down  the  hill  to  somewhere  where  a  man  lay 
dead,  and  she  couldn't  realize  It.  Why  couldn't 
she?  She  stopped  a  minute.  And  it  seemed  to  her 
that  kisses,  voices,  tinkling  spoons,  laughter,  the 
smell  of  crushed  grass  were  somehow  inside  her. 
She  had  no  room  for  anything  else.  How  strange ! 
She  looked  up  at  the  pale  sky,  and  all  she  thought 
was,  "Yes,  it  was  the  most  successful  party." 

Now  the  broad  road  was  crossed.     The  lane  be- 

78 


The  Garden-Party 

gan,  smoky  and  dark.  Women  In  shawls  and  men's 
tweed  caps  hurried  by.  Men  hung  over  the  pal- 
ings; the  children  played  In  the  doorways.  A  low 
hum  came  from  the  mean  little  cottages.  In  some 
of  them  there  was  a  flicker  of  light,  and  a  shadow, 
crab-like,  moved  across  the  window.  Laura  bent 
her  head  and  hurried  on.  She  wished  now  she  had 
put  on  a  coat.  How  her  frock  shone!  And  the 
big  hat  with  the  velvet  streamer — if  only  It  was  an- 
other hat  I  Were  the  people  looking  at  her?  They 
must  be.  It  was  a  mistake  to  have  come;  she  knew 
all  along  it  was  a  mistake.  Should  she  go  back 
even  now  ? 

No,  too  late.  This  was  the  house.  It  must  be. 
A  dark  knot  of  people  stood  outside.  Beside  the 
gate  an  old,  old  woman  with  a  crutch  sat  in  a  chair, 
watching.  She  had  her  feet  on  a  newspaper.  The 
voices  stopped  as  Laura  drew  near.  The  group 
parted.  It  was  as  though  she  was  expected,  as 
though  they  had  known  she  was  coming  here. 

Laura  was  terribly  nervous.  Tossing  the  velvet 
ribbon  over  her  shoulder,  she  said  to  a  woman  stand- 
ing by,  *'Is  this  Mrs.  Scott's  house?"  and  the 
woman,  smiling  queerly,  said,  "It  is,  my  lass." 

Oh,  to  be  away  from  this!  She  actually  said, 
*'Help  me,  God," 'as  she  walked  up  the  tiny  path  and 
knocked.  To  be  away  from  those  staring  eyes,  or  to 
be  covered  up  in  anything,  one  of  those  women's 
shawls  even.  I'll  just  leave  the  basket  and  go,  she 
decided.     I  shan't  even  wait  for  it  to  be  emptied. 

79 


The  Garden- Party 

Then  the  door  opened.  A  little  woman  in  black 
showed  in  the  gloom. 

Laura  said,  "Are  you  Mrs.  Scott?"  But  to  her 
horror  the  woman  answered,  "Walk  in  please, 
miss,"  and  she  was  shut  in  the  passage. 

"No,"  said  Laura,  "I  don't  want  to  come  in.  1 
only  want  to  leave  this  basket.     Mother  sent " 

The  little  woman  in  the  gloomy  passage  seemed 
not  to  have  heard  her.  "Step  this  way,  please, 
miss,"  she  said  in  an  oily  voice,  and  Laura  followed 
her. 

She  found  herself  in  a  wretched  little  low  kitchen, 
lighted  by  a  smoky  lamp.  There  was  a  woman  sit- 
ting before  the  fire. 

"Em,"  said  the  little  creature  who  had  let  her  in. 
"Em!  It's  a  young  lady."  She  turned  to  Laura. 
She  said  meaningly,  "I'm  'er  sister,  Miss.  You'll 
excuse 'er,  won't  you?"  , 

"Oh,  but  of  course  I"  said  Laura.  "Please,  please 
don't  disturb  her.     I — I  only  want  to  leave " 

But  at  that  moment  the  woman  at  the  fire  turned 
round.  Her  face,  puffed  up,  red,  with  swollen  eyes 
and  swollen  lips,  looked  terrible.  She  seemed  as 
though  she  couldn't  understand  why  Laura  was 
there.  What  did  it  mean?  Why  was  this  stranger 
standing  in  the  kitchen  with  a  basket?  What  was 
it  all  about?     And  the  poor  face  puckered  up  again* 

"All  right,  my  dear,"  said  the  other.  "I'll  thenk 
the  young  lady." 

And  again  she  began,  "You'll  excuse  her,  miss, 

80 


The  Garden- Party 

I'm  sure/'  and  her  face,  swollen  too,  tried  an  oily 
smile. 

Laura  only  wanted  to  get  out,  to  get  away.  She 
was  back  in  the  passage.  The  door  opened.  She 
walked  straight  through  into  the  bedroom,  where 
the  dead  man  was  lying. 

"You'd  like  a  look  at  'im,  wouldn't  you?"  said 
Em's  sister,  and  she  brushed  past  Laura  over  to  the 
bed.  "Don't  be  afraid,  my  lass, — "  and  now  her 
voice  sounded  fond  and  sly,  and  fondly  she  drew 
down  the  sheet — "  'e  looks  a  picture.  There's 
nothing  to  show.     Come  along,  my  dear." 

Laura  came. 

There  lay  a  young  man,  fast  asleep — sleeping  so 
soundly,  so  deeply,  that  he  was  far,  far  away  from 
them  both.  Oh,  so  remote,  so  peaceful.  He  was 
dreaming.  Never  wake  him  up  again.  His  head 
was  sunk  in  the  pillow,  his  eyes  were  closed;  they 
were  blind  under  the  closed  eyelids.  He  was  given 
up  to  his  dream.  What  did  garden-parties  and  bas- 
kets and  lace  frocks  matter  to  him?  He  was  far 
from  all  those  things.  He  was  wonderful,  beauti- 
ful. While  they  were  laughing  and  while  the  band 
was  playing,  this  marvel  had  come  to  the  lane. 
Happy  .,  .  .  happy.  ...  All  is  well,  said  that 
sleeping  face.  This  is  just  as  it  should  be.  I  am 
content. 

But  all  the  same  you  had  to  cry,  and  she  couldn't 
go  out  of  the  room  without  saying  something  to  him. 
Laura  gave  a  loud  childish  sob. 

8i 


The  Garden-Party 

^'Forgive  my  hat,"  she  said. 

And  this  time  she  didn't  wait  for  Em's  sister. 
She  found  her  way  out  of  the  door,  down  the  path, 
past  all  those  dark  people.  At  the  corner  of  the 
lane  she  met  Laurie. 

He  stepped  out  of  the  shadow.  "Is  that  you, 
Laura?" 

*Tes." 

^'Mother  was  getting  anxious.  Was  it  aL 
right?" 

"Yes,  quite.  Oh,  Laurie!"  She  took  his  arm, 
she  pressed  up  against  him. 

'*I  say,  you're  not  crying,  are  you?"  asked  her 
brother. 

Laura  shook  her  head.     She  was. 

Laurie  put  his  arm  round  her  shoulder.  "Don't 
cry,"  he  said  in  his  warm,  loving  voice.  "Was  it 
awful?" 

"No,"  sobbed  Laura.  "It  was  simply  marvel- 
lous.    But,  Laurie "     She  stopped,  she  looked 

at  her  brother.     "Isn't  life,"  she  stammered,  "isn't 

life "     But  what  life  was  she  couldn't  explain. 

No  matter.     He  quite  understood. 

*^Isn*t  it,  darling?"  said  Laurie. 


82 


THE  DAUGHTERS  OF  THE  LATE 

COLONEL 

I 

THE  week  after  was  one  of  the  busiest  weeks 
of  their  lives.  Even  when  they  went  to 
bed  it  was  only  their  bodies  that  lay  down 
and  rested;  their  minds  went  on,  thinking  things 
out,  talking  things  over,  wondering,  deciding,  try- 
ing to  remember  where  .  .   . 

Constantia  lay  like  a  statue,  her  hands  by  her 
sides,  her  feet  just  overlapping  each  other,  the  sheet 
up  to  her  chin.     She  stared  at  the  ceiling. 

^'Do  you  think  father  would  mind  if  we  gave  his 
top-hat  to  the  porter?" 

"The  porter?"  snapped  Josephine.  "Why  ever 
the  porter?     What  a  very  extraordinary  idea!" 

"Because,"  said  Constantia  slowly,  "he  must  often 
have  to  go  to  funerals.  And  I  noticed  at — at  the 
cemetery  that  he  only  had  a  bowler."  She  paused. 
"I  thought  then  how  very  much  he'd  appreciate  a 
top-hat.  We  ought  to  give  him  a  present,  too. 
He  was  always  very  nice  to  father." 

"But,"  cried  Josephine,  flouncing  on  her  pillow 
and  staring  across  the  dark  at  Constantia,  "father's 
head!"  And  suddenly,  for  one  awful  moment,  she 
nearly  giggled.     Not,  of  course,  that  she  felt  in  the 

83 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

least  like  giggling.  It  must  have  been  habit. 
Years  ago,  when  the^T^  had  stayed  awake  at  night 
talking,  their  beds  had  simply  heaved.  And 
now  the  porter's  head,  disappearing,  popped  out, 
like  a  candle,  under  father's  hat.  .  .  .  The  giggle 
mounted,  mounted;  she  clenched  her  hands;  she 
fought  it  down ;  she  frowned  fiercely  at  the  dark  and 
said  '^Remember"  terribly  sternly. 

"We  can  decide  to-morrow,"  she  sighed. 

Constantia  had  noticed  nothing;  she  sighed. 

"Do  3^ou  think  we  ought  to  have  our  dressing- 
gowns  dyed  as  well?" 

"Black?"  almost  shrieked  Josephine. 

"Well,  what  else?"  said  Constantia.  "I  was 
thinking — it  doesn't  seem  quite  sincere,  in  a  way, 
to  wear  black  out  of  doors  and  when  we're  fully 
dressed,  and  then  when  we're  at  home " 

"But  nobody  sees  us,"  said  Josephine.  She  gave 
the  bedclothes  such  a  twitch  that  both  her  feet  be* 
came  uncovered,  and  she  had  to  creep  up  the  pillows 
to  get  them  well  under  again. 

"Kate  does,"  said  Constantia.  "And  the  post- 
man very  well  might." 

Josephine  thought  of  her  dark-red  slippers,  which 
matched  her  dressing-gown,  and  of  Constantia's 
favourite  indefinite  green  ones  which  went  with  hers. 
Black!  Two  black  dressing-gowns  and  two  pairs 
of  black  woolly  slippers,  creeping  off  to  the  bath- 
room like  black  cats. 

"I  don't  think  it's  absolutely  necessary,"  said  she. 

84 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

Silence.  Then  Constantia  said,  *'We  shall  have 
to  post  the  papers  with  the  notice  in  them  to- 
morrow to  catch  the  Ceylon  mail.  .  .  .  How  many 
letters  have  we  had  up  till  now?" 

"Twenty-three." 

Josephine  had  replied  to  them  all,  and  twenty- 
three  times  when  she  came  to  "We  miss  our  dear 
father  so  much"  she  had  broken  down  and  had  to 
use  her  handkerchief,  and  on  some  of  them  even  to 
soak  up  a  very  light-blue  tear  with  an  edge  of  blot- 
ting-paper. Strange !  She  couldn't  have  put  it  on 
— but  twenty-three  times.  Even  now,  though,  when 
she  said  over  to  herself  sadly.  "We  miss  our  dear 
father  so  much"  she  could  have  cried  if  she'd  wanted 
to. 

"Have  you  got  enough  stamps?"  came  from  Con- 
stantia. 

"Oh,  how  can  I  tell?"  said  Josephine  crossly. 
"What's  the  good  of  asking  me  that  now?" 

"I  was  just  wondering,"  said  Constantia  mildly. 

Silence  again.  There  came  a  little  rustle,  a 
scurry,  a  hop. 

"A  mouse,"  said  Constantia. 

"It  can't  be  a  mouse  because  there  aren't  any 
crumbs,"  said  Josephine. 

"But  it  doesn't  know  there  aren't,"  said 
Constantia. 

A  spasm  of  pity  squeezed  her  heart.  Poor  little 
thing!  She  wished  she'd  left  a  tiny  piece  of  bis- 
cuit on  the  dressing-table.     It  was  awful  to  think 

85 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

of  it  not  finding   anything.     What  would   it   do? 

''I  can't  think  how  they  manage  to  live  at  all,'' 
she  said  slowly. 

"Who?"  demanded  Josephine. 

And  Constantia  said  more  loudly  than  she  meant 
to,  "Mice." 

Josephine  was  furious.  "Oh,  what  nonsense, 
Con!"  she  said.  "What  have  mice  got  to  do  with 
it?     You're  asleep." 

"I  don't  think  I  am,"  said  Constantia.  She  shut 
her  eyes  to  make  sure.     She  was. 

Josephine  arched  her  spine,  pulled  up  her  knees, 
folded  her  arms  so  that  her  fists  came  under  her 
ears,  and  pressed  her  cheek  hard  against  the  pillow. 


II 

Another  thing  which  complicated  matters  was 
they  had  Nurse  Andrews  staying  on  with  them  that 
week.  It  was  their  own  fault;  they  had  asked  her. 
It  was  Josephine's  idea.  On  the  morning — well, 
on  the  last  morning,  when  the  doctor  had  gone, 
Josephine  had  said  to  Constantia,  "Don't  you  think 
it  would  be  rather  nice  if  we  asked  Nurse  Andrews 
to  stay  on  for  a  week  as  our  guest?" 

"Very  nice,"  said  Constantia., 

"I  thought,"  went  on  Josephine  quickly,  "I  should 
just  say  this  afternoon,  after  I've  paid  her,  'My 
sister  and  I  would  be  very  pleased,  after  all  you've 
done  for  us,  Nurse  Andrews,  if  you  would  stay  on 

86 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

for  a  week  as  our  guest/  Fd  have  to  put  that  in 
about  being  our  guest  in  case " 

"Oh,  but  she  could  hardly  expect  to  be  paid!'* 
cried  Constantia. 

"One  never  knows,"  said  Josephine  sagely. 

Nurse  Andrews  had,  of  course,  jumped  at  the 
idea.  But  it  was  a  bother.  It  meant  they  had  to 
have  regular  sit-down  meals  at  the  proper  times, 
whereas  if  they'd  l5een  alone  they  could  just  have 
asked  Kate  if  she  wouldn't  have  minded  bringing 
them  a  tray  wherever  they  were.  And  meal-times 
now  that  the  strain  was  over  were  rather  a  trial. 

Nurse  Andrews  was  simply  fearful  about  butter. 
Really  they  couldn't  help  feeling  that  about  butter, 
at  least,  she  took  advantage  of  their  kindness. 
And  she  had  that  maddening  habit  of  asking  for 
just  an  inch  more  bread  to  finish  what  she  had  on 
her  plate,  and  then,  at  the  last  mouthful,  absent- 
mindedly — of  course  it  wasn't  absent-mindedly — 
taking  another  helping.  Josephine  got  very  red 
when  this  happened,  and  she  fastened  her  small, 
bead-like  eyes  on  the  tablecloth  as  if  she  saw  a  mi- 
nute strange  insect  creeping  through  the  web  of  it. 
But  Constantia's  long,  pale  face  lengthened  and 
set,  and  she  gazed  away — away — far  over  the  des- 
ert, to  where  that  line  of  camels  unwound  like  a 
thread  of  wool.  .  .  . 

"When  I  was  with  Lady  Tukes,"  said  Nurse 
Andrews,  "she  had  such  a  dainty  little  contrayvance 
for  the  buttah.\     It  was  a  silvah  Cupid  balanced  on 

87 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

the — on  the  bordah  of  a  glass  dish,  holding  a  tayny 
fork.  And  when  you  wanted  some  buttah  you 
simply  pressed  his  foot  and  he  bent  down  and 
speared  you  a  piece.     It  was  quite  a  gayme." 

Josephine  could  hardly  bear  that.  But  *'I  think 
those  things  are  very  extravagant"  was  all  she 
said. 

"But  whey?"  asked  Nurse  Andrews,  beaming 
through  her  eyeglasses.  *^No^one,  surely,  would 
take  more  buttah  than  one  wanted — would  one?" 

"Ring,  Con,"  cried  Josephine.  She  couldn^t 
trust  herself  to  reply. 

And  proud  young  Kate,  the  enchanted  princess, 
came  in  to  see  what  the  old  tabbies  wanted  now. 
She  snatched  away  their  plates  of  mock  something 
or  other  and  slapped  down  a  white,  terrified  blanc- 
mange. 

"Jam,  please,  Kate,"  said  Josephine  kindly. 

Kate  knelt  and  burst  open  the  sideboard,  lifted 
the  lid  of  the  jam-pot,  saw  it  was  empty,  put  it  on 
the  table,  and  stalked  off. 

"I'm  afraid,"  said  Nurse  Andrews  a  moment 
later,  "there  isn't  any." 

"Oh,  what  a  bother!"  said  Josephine.  She  bit 
her  lip.     "What  had  we  better  do?" 

Constantia  looked  dubious.  "We  can't  disturb 
Kate  again,"  she  said  softly. 

Nurse  Andrews  waited,  smiling  at  them  both. 
Her  eyes  wandered,  spying  at  everything  behind  her 
eye-glasses.     Constantia  in  despair  went  back  to 

88 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

her  camels.  Josephine  frowned  heavily — concen- 
trated. If  It  hadn't  been  for  this  Idiotic  woman 
she  and  Con  would,  of  course,  have  eaten  their 
blancamange  without.     Suddenly  the  Idea  came. 

*'I  know,"  she  said.  "Marmalade.  There's 
some  marmalade  in  the  sideboard.     Get  it,  Con." 

*'I  hope,"  laughed  Nurse  Andrews,  and  her  laugh 
was  like  a  spoon  tinkling  against  a  medicine-glass — 
*'I  hope  it's  not  very  bittah  marmalayde." 


Ill 

But,  after  all,  it  was  not  long  now,  and  then 
she'd  be  gone  for  good.  And  there  was  no  getting 
over  the  fact  that  she  had  been  very  kind  to 
father.  She  had  nursed  him  day  and  night  at  the 
end.  Indeed,  both  Constantia  and  Josephine  felt 
privately  she  had  rather  overdone  the  not  leav- 
ing him  at  the  very  last.  For  when  they  had  gone 
In  to  say  good-bye  Nurse  Andrews  had  sat  beside 
his  bed  the  whole  time,  holding  his  wrist  and  pre- 
tending to  look  at  her  watch.  It  couldn't  have  been 
necessary.  It  was  so  tactless,  too.  Supposing 
father  had  wanted  to  say  something — something 
private  to  them.  Not  that  he  had.  Oh,  far  from 
it!  He  lay  there,  purple,  a  dark,  angry  purple  in 
the  face,  and  never  even  looked  at  them  when  they 
came  in.  Then,  as  they  were  standing  there,  won- 
dering what  to  do,  he  had  suddenly  opened  one  eye. 
Oh,  what  a  difference  it  would  have  made,  what  a 

89 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

difference  to  their  memory  of  him,  how  much 
easier  to  tell  people  about  it,  if  he  had  only  opened 
both!  But  no — one  eye  only.  It  glared  at  them 
a  moment  and  then  .  .  .  went  out. 


IV 

It  had  made  it  very  awkward  for  them  when 
Mr.  FaroUes,  of  St.  John's,  called  the  same  after- 
noon. 

"The  end  was  quite  peaceful,  I  trust?"  were  the 
first  words  he  said  as  he  glided  towards  them 
through  the  dark  drawing-room. 

"Quite,"  said  Josephine  faintly.  They  both 
hung  their  heads.  Both  of  them  felt  certain  that 
eye  wasn't  at  all  a  peaceful  eye. 

"Won't  you  sit  down?"  said  Josephine. 

"Thank  you,  Miss  Pinner,"  said  Mr.  Farolles 
gratefully.  He  folded  his  coat-tails  and  began  to 
lower  himself  into  father's  arm-chair,  but  just  as 
he  touched  it  he  almost  sprang  up  and  slid  into  the 
next  chair  instead. 

He  coughed.  Josephine  clasped  her  hands; 
Constantia  looked  vague. 

"I  want  you  to  feel.  Miss  Pinner,"  said  Mr. 
Farolles,  "and  you,  Miss  Constantia,  that  I'm  try- 
ing to  be  helpful.  I  want  to  be  helpful  to  you  both, 
if  you  will  let  me.  These  are  the  times,"  said  Mr. 
Farolles,  very  simply  and  earnestly,  "when  God 
means  us  to  be  helpful  to  one  another." 

90 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

"Thank  you  very  much,  Mr.  Farolles/'  said 
Josephine  and  Constantla. 

''Not  at  all,"  said  Mr.  Farolles  gently.  He 
drew  his  kid  gloves  through  his  fingers  and  leaned 
forward.  "And  if  either  of  you  would  like  a  little 
Communion,  either  or  both  of  you,  here  and  now, 
you  have  only  to  tell  me.  A  little  Communion  is 
often  very  help — a  great  comfort,"  he  added  ten- 
derly. 

But  the  idea  of  a  little  Communion  terrified  them. 
What!  In  the  drawing-room  by  themselves — 
with  no — no  altar  or  anything!  The  piano  would 
be  much  too  high,  thought  Constantia,  and  Mr. 
Farolles  could  not  possibly  lean  over  it  with  the 
chalice.  And  Kate  would  be  sure  to  come  bursting 
in  and  interrupt  them,  thought  Josephine.  And 
supposing  the  bell  rang  in  the  middle?  It  might 
be  somebody  Important — about  their  mourning. 
Would  they  get  up  reverently  and  go  out,  or  would 
they  have  to  wait  ...  in  torture? 

"Perhaps  you  will  send  round  a  note  by  your  good 
Kate  If  you  would  care  for  It  later,"  said  Mr. 
Farolles. 

"Oh  yes,  thank  you  very  much !"  they  both  said. 

Mr.  Farolles  got  up  and  took  his  black  straw 
hat  from  the  round  table. 

"And  about  the  funeral,"  he  said  softly.  "I  may 
arrange  that — as  your  dear  father's  old  friend  and 
yours,  Miss  Pinner — and  Miss  Constantia?" 

Josephine  and  Constantla  got  up  too. 

91 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

"I  should  like  it  to  be  quite  simple,"  said 
Josephine  firmly,  "and  not  too  expensive.  At  the 
same  time,  I  should  like " 

"A  good  one  that  will  last,"  thought  dreamy 
Constantia,  as  if  Josephine  were  buying  a  night- 
gown. But  of  course  Josephine  didn^t  say  that. 
"One  suitable  to  our  father's  sposition."  She  was 
very  nervous. 

"I'll  run  round  to  our  good  friend  Mr.  Knight," 
said  Mr.  FaroUes  soothingly.  "I  will  ask  him  to 
come  and  see  you.  I  am  sure  you  will  find  him 
very  helpful  indeed." 


Well,  at  any  rate,  all  that  part  of  it  was  over, 
though  neither  of  them  could  possibly  believe  that 
father  was  never  coming  back.  Josephine  had  had 
a  moment  of  absolute  terror  at  the  cemetery,  while 
the  coffin  was  lowered,  to  think  that  she  and  Con- 
stantia had  done  this  thing  without  asking  his  per- 
mission. What  would  father  say  when  he  foune 
out?  For  he  was  bound  to  find  out  sooner  or 
later.  He  always  did.  "Buried.  You  two  girls 
had  me  buried T^  She  heard  his  stick  thumping. 
Oh,  what  would  they  say?  What  possible  excuse 
could  they  make?  It  sounded  such  an  appallingly 
heartless  thing  to  do.  Such  a  wicked  advantage  to 
take  of  a  person  because  he  happened  to  be  help- 
less at  the  moment.     The  other  people  seemed  to 

92 


\ 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

treat  it  all  as  a  matter  of  course.  They  were 
strangers;  they  couldn't  be  expected  to  under- 
stand that  father  was  the  very  last  person  for  such 
a  thing  to  happen  to.  No,  the  entire  blame  for  it 
all  would  fall  on  her  and  Constantia.  And  the  ex- 
pense, she  thought,  stepping  into  the  tight-buttoned 
cab.  When  she  had  to  show  him  the  bills.  What 
would  he  say  then? 

She  heard  him  absolutely  roaring,  "And  do  you 
expect  me  to  pay  for  this  gimcrack  excursion  of 
yours?" 

''Oh,"  groaned  poor  Josephine  aloud,  'Sve 
shouldn't  have  done  it.  Con!" 

And  Constantia,  pale  as  a  lemon  in  all  that  black- 
ness,  said  in  a   frightened  whisper,   "Done  what, 

Jug?" 

"Let  them  bu-bury  father  like  that,"  said 
Josephine,  breaking  down  and  crying  into  her  new, 
queer-smelling  mourning  handkerchief. 

"But  what  else  could  we  have  done?"  asked 
Constantia  wonderingly.  "We  couldn't  have  kept 
him.  Jug — we  couldn't  have  kept  him  unburied. 
At  any  rate,  not  in  a  flat  that  size." 

Josephine  blew  her  nose;  the  cab  was  dreadfully 
stuffy. 

"I  don't  know,"  she  said  forlornly.  "It  is  all  so 
dreadful.  I  feel  we  ought  to  have  tried  to,  just  for 
a  time  at  least.  To  make  perfectly  sure.  One 
thing's  certain" — and  her  tears  sprang  out  again — 
"father  will  never  forgive  us  for  this — never !" 

93 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

VI 

Father  would  never  forgive  them.  That  was 
what  they  felt  more  than  ever  when,  two  morn- 
ings later,  they  went  into  his  room  to  go  through 
his  things.  They  had  discussed  it  quite  calmly. 
It  was  even  down  on  Josephine^s  list  of  things  to 
be  done.  Go  through  father's  things  and  settle 
about  them.  But  that  was  a  very  different  matter 
from  saying  after  breakfast : 

"Well,  are  you  ready,  Con?" 

*'Yes,  Jug — ^when  you  are.'* 

"Then  I  think  we'd  better  get  it  over." 

It  was  dark  in  the  hall.  It  had  been  a  rule  for 
years  never  to  disturb  father  in  the  morning,  what- 
ever happened.  And  now  they  were  going  to  open 
the  door  without  knocking  even.  ...  Con- 
stantia's  eyes  were  enormous  at  the  idea;  Josephine 
felt  weak  in  the  knees. 

"You — ^you  go  first,"  she  gasped,  pushing  Con- 
stantia. 

But  Constantia  said,  as  she  always  had  said  on 
those  occasions,  "No,  Jug,  that's  not  fair.  You're 
eldest." 

Josephine  was  just  going  to  say — what  at  other 
times  she  wouldn't  have  owned  to  for  the  world — 
what  she  kept  for  her  very  last  weapon,  "But  you're 
tallest,"  when  they  noticed  that  the  kitchen  door  was 
open,  and  there  stood  Kate.  .  .  . 

"Very  stiff,"  said  Josephine,  grasping  the  door- 

94 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

handle  and  doing  her  best  to  turn  it.  As  If  any- 
thing ever  deceived  Kate  I 

It  couldn't  be  helped.  That  girl  was  .  .  . 
Then  the  door  was  shut  behind  them,  but — ^but  they 
weren't  In  father's  room  at  all.  They  might  have 
suddenly  walked  through  the  wall  by  mistake  into 
a  different  flat  altogether.  Was  the  door  just  be- 
hind them?  They  were  too  frightened  to  look. 
Josephine  knew  that  If  it  was  it  was  holding  Itself 
tight  shut;  Constantia  felt  that,  like  the  doors  In 
dreams,  It  hadn't  any  handle  at  all.  It  was  the 
coldness  which  made  It  so  awful.  Or  the  whiteness 
— which?  Everything  was  covered.  The  blinds 
were  down,  a  cloth  hung  over  the  mirror,  a  sheet 
hid  the  bed;  a  huge  fan  of  white  paper  filled  the  fire- 
place. Constantia  timidly  put  out  her  hand;  she  al- 
most exp.ected  a  snowflake  to  fall.  Josephine  felt 
a  queer  tingling  In  her  nose,  as  if  her  nose  was  freez- 
ing. Then  a  cab  klop-klopped  over  the  cobbles  be- 
low, and  the  quiet  seemed  to  shake  Into  little  pieces. 

*'I  had  better  pull  up  a  blind,"  said  Josephine 
bravely. 

"Yes,  It  might  be  a  good  Idea,"  whispered  Con- 
stantia. 

They  only  gave  the  blind  a  touch,  but  it  flew  up 
and  the  cord  flew  after,  rolling  round  the  blind- 
stick,  and  the  little  tassel  tapped  as  If  trying  to  get 
free.     That  was  too  much  for  Constantia. 

"Don't  you  think — don't  you  think  we  might  put 
it  off  for  another  day?"  she  whispered. 

95 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

"Why?'*  snapped  Josephine,  feeling,  as  usual, 
much  better  now  that  she  knew  for  certain  that  Con- 
stantia  was  terrified.  "It's  got  to  be  done.  But 
I  do  wish  you  wouldn't  whisper,  Con." 

"I  didn't  know  I  was  whispering,"  whispered 
Constantia. 

"And  why  do  you  keep  on  staring  at  the  bed?" 
said  Josephine,  raising  her  voice  almost  defiantly. 
"There's  nothing  on  the  bed." 

"Oh,  Jug,  don't  say  so!"  said  poor  Connie. 
"At  any  rate,  not  so  loudly." 

Josephine  felt  herself  that  she  had  gone  too  far. 
She  took  a  wide  swerve  over  to  the  chest  of  drawers, 
put  out  her  hand,  but  quickly  drew  It  back  again. 

"Connie!"  she  gasped,  and  she  wheeled  round 
and  leaned  with  her  back  against  the  chest  of 
drawers. 

*'0h,  Jug— what?" 

Josephine  could  only  glare.  She  had  the  most 
extraordinary  feeling  that  she  had  just  escaped 
something  simply  awful.,  But  how  could  she  ex- 
plain to  Constantia  that  father  was  in  the  chest  of 
drawers?  He  was  in  the  top  drawer  with  his  hand- 
kerchiefs and  neckties,  or  in  the  next  with  his  shirts 
and  pyjamas,  or  in  the  lowest  of  all  with  his  suits. 
He  was  watching  there,  hidden  away — just  behind 
the  door-handle — ready  to  spring. 

She  pulled  a  funny  old-fashioned  face  at  Con- 
stantia, just  as  she  used  to  in  the  old  days  when  she 
was  going  to  cry. 

96 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

*'I  can't  open,"  she  nearly  wailed. 

"No,  don't.  Jug,"  whispered  Constantia  ear- 
nestly. '*It's  much  better  not  to.  Don't  let's 
open  anything.  At  any  rate,  not  for  a  long 
time." 

'*But — but  it  seems  so  weak,"  said  Josephine, 
breaking  down. 

"But  why  not  be  weak  for  once,  Jud?"  argued 
Constantia,  whispering  quite  fiercely.  "If  it  is 
weak."  And  her  pale  stare  flew  from  the  locked 
writing-table — so  safe — to  the  huge  glittering  ward- 
robe, and  she  began  to  breathe  in  a  queer,  panting 
way.  "Why  shouldn't  we  be  weak  for  once  in  our 
lives.  Jug?  It's  quite  excusable.)  Let's  be  weak — 
be  weak.  Jug.  It's  much  nicer  to  be  weak  than  to 
be  strong." 

And  then  she  did  one  of  those  amazingly  bold 
things  that  she'd  done  about  twice  before  in  their 
lives;  she  marched  over  to  the  wardrobe,  turned  the 
key,  and  took  it  out  of  the  lock.  Took  it  out  of  the 
lock  and  held  it  up  to  Josephine,  showing  Josephine 
by  her  extraordinary  smile  that  she  knew  what  she'd 
done,  she'd  risked  deliberately  father  being  in  there 
among  his  overcoats. 

If  the  huge  wardrobe  had  lurched  forward,  had 
crashed  down  on  Constantia,  Josephine  wouldn't 
have  been  surprised.  On  the  contrary,  she  would 
have  thought  it  the  only  suitable  thing  to  happen. 
But  nothing  happened.  Only  the  room  seemed 
quieter  than  ever,  and  bigger  flakes  of  cold  air  fell 

97 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

on  Josephine's  shoulders  and  knees.     She  began  to 
shiver. 

"Come,  Jug,"  said  Constantia,  still  with  that  aw- 
ful callous  smile,  and  Josephine  followed  just  as 
she  had  that  last  time,  when  Constantia  had  pushed 
Benny  into  the  round  pond. 

VII 

But  the  strain  told  on  them  when  they  were  back 
In  the  dining-room.  They  sat  down,  very  shaky, 
and  looked  at  each  other. 

''I  don't  feel  I  can  settle  to  anything,"  said  Jo- 
sephine, "until  I've  had  something.  Do  you  think 
we  could  ask  Kate  for  two  cups  of  hot  water?" 

"I  really  don't  see  why  we  shouldn't,"  said  Con- 
stantia  carefully.     She   was  'quite   normal   again. 
"I  won't  ring.     I'll  go  to  the  kitchen  door  and  ask 
her." 

"Yes,  do,"  said  Josephine,  sinking  down  Into  a 
chair.  "Tell  her,  just  two  cups.  Con,  nothing  else 
— on  a  tray." 

"She  needn't  even  put  the  jug  on,  need  she?" 
said  Constantia,  as  though  Kate  might  very  well 
complain  If  the  jug  had  been  there. 

"Oh  no,  certainly  not!  The  jug's  not  at  all  nec- 
essary. She  can  pour  It  direct  out  of  the  kettle," 
cried  Josephine,  feeling  that  would  be  a  labour-sav- 
ing Indeed. 

Their  cold  lips  quivered  at  the  greenish  brims. 
Josephine  curved  her  small  red  hands  round  the 

98 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

cup;  Constantia  sat  up  and  blew  on  the  wavy  stream,, 
making  it  flutter  from  one  side  to  the  other. 

"Speaking  of  Benny,"  said  Josephine. 

And  though  Benny  hadn't  been  mentioned  Con- 
stantia immediately  looked  as  though  he  had. 

"He'll  expect  us  to  send  him  something  of 
father's,  of  course.  But  it's  so  difficult  to  know 
what  to  send  to  Ceylon." 

"You  mean  things  get  unstuck  so  on  the  voyage," 
murmured  Constantia. 

"No,  lost,"  said  Josephine  sharply.  "You  know 
there's  no  post.     Only  runners." 

Both  paused  to  watch  a  black  man  In  white  linen 
drawers  running  through  the  pale  fields  for  dear 
life,  with  a  large  brown-paper  parcel  in  his  hands. 
Josephine's  black  man  was  tiny;  he  scurried  along 
glistening  like  an  ant.  But  there  was  something 
blind  and  tireless  about  Constantia's  tall,  thin  fel- 
low, which  made  him,  she  decided,  a  very  unpleas- 
ant person  indeed.  .  .  .  On  the  veranda,  dressed 
all  in  white  and  wearing  a  cork  helmet,  stood  Benny. 
His  right  hand  shook  up  and  down,  as  father's  did 
when  he  was  impatient.  And  behind  him,  not  in 
the  least  interested,  sat  Hilda,  the  unknown  sister- 
in-law.  She  swung  in  a  cane  rocker  and  flicked 
over  the  leaves  of  the  Tatler. 

"I  think  his  watch  would  be  the  most  suitable 
present,"  said  Josephine. 

Constantia  looked  up;  she  seemed  surprised. 

"Oh,  would  you  trust  a  gold  watch  to  a  native?" 

99 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

"But  of  course  I'd  disguise  it,''  said  Josephine. 
"No  one  would  know  it  was  a  watch."  She  liked 
the  idea  of  having  to  make  a  parcel  such  a  cu- 
rious shape  that  no  one  could  possibly  guess  what 
it  was.  She  even  thought  for  a  moment  of  hiding 
the  watch  in  a  narrow  cardboard  corset-box  that 
she'd  kept  by  her  for  a  long  time,  waiting  for  it  to 
come  in  for  something.  It  was  such  beautiful  firm 
cardboard.  But,  no,  it  wouldn't  be  appropriate  for 
this  occasion.  It  had  lettering  on  it:  Medium 
IVomen^s  28.  Extra  Firm  Busks.  It  would  be 
almost  too  much  of  a  surprise  for  Benny  to  open 
that  and  find  father's  watch  inside. 

"And  of  course  it  isn't  as  though  it  would  be 
going — ticking,  I  mean,"  said  Constantia,  who  wag 
still  thinking  of  the  native  love  of  jewellery.  "At 
least,"  she  added,  "  it  would  be  very  strange  if  after 
all  that  time  it  was." 


VIII 

Josephine  made  no  reply.  She  had  flown  off  on 
one  of  her  tangents.  She  had  suddenly  thought  of 
Cyril.  Wasn't  it  more  usual  for  the  only  grand- 
son to  have  the  watch?  And  then  dear  Cyril  was 
so  appreciative,  and  a  gold  watch  meant  so  much  to 
a  young  man.  Benny,  in  all  probability,  had  quite 
got  out  of  the  habit  of  watches;  men  so  seldom 
wore  waistcoats  in  those  hot  climates.  Whereas 
Cyril  in  London  wore  them  from  year's  end  to 

TOO 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

year's  end.  And  it  would  be  so  nice  for  her  and 
Constantia,  when  he  came  to  tea,  to  know  it  was 
there.  *'I  see  you've  got  on  grandfather's  watch, 
Cyril."     It  would  be  somehow  so  satisfactory. 

Dear  boy!  What  a  blow  his  sweet,  sympathetic 
little  note  had  been!  Of  course  they  quite  under- 
stood; but  it  was  most  unfortunate. 

*'It  would  have  been  such  a  point,  having  him," 
said  Josephine. 

''And  he  would  have  enjoyed  it  so,"  said  Constan- 
tia, not  thinking  what  she  was  saying. 

However,  as  soon  as  he  got  back  he  was  coming 
to  tea  with  his  aunties.  Cyril  to  tea  was  one  of 
their  rare  treats. 

''Now,  Cyril,  you  mustn't  be  frightened  of  our 
cakes.  Your  Auntie  Con  and  I  bought  them  at 
Buszard's  this  morning.  We  know  what  a  man's 
appetite  is.  So  don't  be  ashamed  of  making  a  good 
tea." 

Josephine  cut  recklessly  into  the  rich  dark  cake 
that  stood  for  her  winter  gloves  or  the  soling  and 
heeling  of  Constantia's  only  respectable  shoes. 
But  Cyril  was  most  unmanlike  in  appetite. 

"I  say.  Aunt  Josephine,  I  simply  can't.  I've  only 
just  had  lunch,  you  know." 

"Oh,  Cyril,  that  can't  be  true!  It's  after  four," 
cried  Josephine.  Constantia  sat  with  her  knife 
poised  over  the  chocolate-roll. 

"It  is,  all  the  same,"  said  Cyril.  "I  had  to  meet 
a  man  at  Victoria,  and  he  kept  me  hanging  about 

lOI 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

till  .  .,  .  there  was  only  time  to  get  lunch  and  to 
come  on  here.  And  he  gave  me — phew" — Cyril 
put  his  hand  to  his  forehead — "a  terrific  blow-out," 
he  said. 

It  was  disappointing — to-day  of  all  days.  But 
still  he  couldn't  be  expected  to  know. 

"But  you'll  have  a  meringue,  won't  you,  Cyril?" 
said  Aunt  Josephine.  "These  meringues  were 
bought  specially  for  you.  Your  dear  father  was 
so  fond  of  them.     We  were  sure  you  are,  too." 

"I  am^  Aunt  Josephine,"  cried  Cyril  ardently. 
"Do  you  mind  if  I  take  half  to  begin  with?" 

"Not  at  all,  dear  boy;  but  we  mustn't  let  you  c\ff 
with  that." 

"Is  your  dear  father  still  so  fond  of  meringues?" 
asked  Auntie  Con  gently.  She  winced  faintly  as 
she  broke  through  the  shell  of  hers. 

"Well,  I  don't  quite  know.  Auntie  Con,"  said 
Cyril  breezily. 

At  that  they  both  looked  up. 

"Don't,  know?"  almost  snapped  Josephine. 
"Don't  know  a  thing  like  that  about  your  own 
father,  Cyril?" 

"Surely,"  said  Aunty  Con  softly. 

Cyril  tried  to  laugh  it  off.     "Oh,  well,"  he  said, 

"it's   such   a   long  time   since "     He   faltered. 

He  stopped.  Their  faces  were  too  much  for 
him. 

"Even  so"  said  Josephine. 

And  Auntie  Con  looked. 
1 02 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

Cyril  put  down  his  teacup.  *'Wait  a  bit,"  he 
cried.  *'WaIt  a  bit,  Aunt  Josephine.  What  am 
I  thinking  of?" 

He  looked  up.  They  were  beginning  to  brighten. 
Cyril  slapped  his  knee. 

"Of  course,"  he  said,  "it  was  meringues.  How 
could  I  have  forgotten?  Yes,  Aunt  Josephine, 
you*re  perfectly  right.  Father's  most  frightfully 
keen  on  meringues." 

They  didn't  only  beam.  Aunt  Josephine  went 
scarlet  with  pleasure;  Auntie  Con  gave  a  deep,  deep 
sigh. 

"And  now,  Cyril,  you  must  come  and  see  father," 
said  Josephine.  "He  knows  you  were  coming  to- 
day." 

"Right,"  said  Cyril,  very  firmly  and  heartily. 
He  got  up  from  his  chair;  suddenly  he  glanced  at 
the  clock. 

"I  say,  Auntie  Con,  Isn't  your  clock  a  bit  slow? 
I've  got  to  meet  a  man  at — at  Paddington  just 
after  five.  I'm  afraid  I  shan't  be  able  to  stay  very 
long  with  grandfather." 

"Oh,  he  won't  expect  you  to  stay  very  long  I'* 
said  Aunt  Josephine. 

Constantia  was  still  gazing  at  the  clock.  She 
couldn't  make  up  her  mind  If  it  was  fast  or  slow. 
It  was  one  or  the  other,  she  felt  almost  certain  of 
that.     At  any  rate.  It  had  been. 

Cyril  still  lingered.  "Aren't  you  coming  along,. 
Auntie  Con?" 

103 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

^'Of  course,"   said  Josephine,  "we  shall  all  go. 
Come  on,  Con." 


IX 

They  knocked  at  the  door,  and  Cyril  followed  his 
aunts  into  grandfather's  hot,  sweetish  room. 

"Come  on,"  said  Grandfather  Pinner.  "Don't 
hang  about.  What  is  it?  What've  you  been  up 
to?" 

He  was  sitting  in  front  of  a  roaring  fire,  clasping 
his  stick.  He  had  a  thick  rug  over  his  knees.  On 
his  lap  there  lay  a  beautiful  pale  yellow  silk  hand- 
kerchief. 

"It's  Cyril,  father,"  said  Josephine  shyly.  And 
she  took  Cyril's  hand  and  led  him  forward. 

"Good  afternoon,  grandfather,"  said  Cyril,  try- 
ing to  take  his  hand  out  of  Aunt  Josephine's. 
Grandfather  Pinner  shot  his  eyes  at  Cyril  in  the 
way  he  was  famous  for.  Where  was  Auntie  Con^? 
She  stood  on  the  other  side  of  Aunt  Josephine ;  her 
long  arms  hung  down  in  front  of  her;  her  hands 
were  clasped.  She  never  took  her  eyes  off  grand- 
father. 

"Well,"  said  Grandfather  Pinner,  beginning  to 
thump,  "what  have  you  got  to  tell  me?" 

What  had  he,  what  had  he  got  to  tell  him? 
Cyril  felt  himself  smiling  like  a  perfect  imbecile. 
The  room  was  stifling,  too. 

But  Aunt  Josephine  came  to  his  .rescue.  She 
104 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

cried  brightly,  "Cyril  says  his  father  is  still  very 
fond  of  meringues,  father  dear." 

"Eh?"  said  Grandfather  Pinner,  curving  his  hand 
like  a  purple  merlngue-shell  over  one  ear. 

Josephine  repeated,  "Cyril  says  his  father  Is  still 
very  fond  of  meringues." 

"Can't  hear,"  said  old  Colonel  Pinner.  And  he 
waved  Josephine  away  with  his  stick,  then  pointed 
with  his  stick  to  Cyril.  "Tell  me  what  she's  trying 
to  say,"  he  said. 

(My  God!)  "Must  I?"  said  Cyril,  blushing  and 
staring  at  Aunt  Josephine. 

"Do,  dear,"  she  smiled.  "It  will  please  him  so 
much." 

"Come  on,  out  with  it!"  cried  Colonel  Pinner 
testily,  beginning  to  thump  again. 

And  Cyril  leaned  forward  and  yelled,  "Father's 
still  very  fond  of  meringues." 

At  that  Grandfather  Pinner  jumped  as  though 
he  had  been  shot. 

"Don't  shout!"  he  cried.  "What's  the  matter 
with    the   boy?     Meringues!     What   about   'em?" 

"Oh,  Aunt  Josephine,  must  we  go  on?"  groaned 
Cyril  desperately. 

"It's  quite  all  right,  dear  boy,"  said  Aunt  Jose- 
phine, as  though  he  and  she  were  at  the  dentist's 
together.  "He'll  understand  in  a  minute."  And 
she  whispered  to  Cyril,  "He's  getting  a  bit  deaf,  you 
know."  Then  she  leaned  forward  and  really 
bawled  at  Grandfather  Pinner,  "Cyril  only  wanted 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

to  tell  you,  father  dear,  that  his  father  is  still  very 
fond  of  meringues." 

Colonel  Pinner  heard  that  time,  heard  and 
brooded,  looking  Cyril  up  and  down. 

"What  an  esstrordinary  thing!"  said  old  Grand- 
father Pinner.  *'What  an  esstrordinary  thing  to 
come  all  this  way  here  to  tell  me !" 

And  Cyril  felt  it  was. 

*Tes,  I  shall  send  Cyril  the  watch,"  said  Jose- 
phine. 

"That  would  be  very  nice,"  said  Constantia.  "I 
seem  to  remember  last  time  he  came  there  was  some 
little  trouble  about  the  time." 


They  were  interrupted  by  Kate  bursting  through 
the  door  in  her  usual  fashion,  as  though  she  had 
discovered  some  secret  panel  in  the  wall. 

"Fried  or  boiled?"  asked  the  bold  voice. 

Fried  or  boiled?  Josephine  and  Constantia 
were  quite  bewildered  for  the  moment.  They  could 
hardly  take  it  in. 

"Fried  or  boiled  what,  Kate?"  asked  Josephine, 
trying  to  begin  to  concentrate. 

Kate  gave  a  loud  sniff.     "Fish." 

"Well,  why  didn't  you  say  so  immediately?" 
Josephine  reproached  her  gently.  "How  could 
you  expect  us  to  understand,  Kate?  There  are  a 
great  many  things  in  this  world,  you  know,  which 

io6 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

are  fried  or  boiled."  And  after  such  a  display  of 
courage  she  said  quite  brightly  to  Constantia, 
"Which  do  you  prefer,  Con?" 

"I  think  It  might  be  nice  to  have  It  fried,"  said 
Constantia.  "On  the  other  hand,  of  course  boiled 
fish  is  very  nice.  I  think  I  prefer  both  equally  well 
.  .  .  Unless  you  ...  In  that  case " 

"I  shall  fry  it,"  said  Kate,  and  she  bounced  back, 
leaving  their  door  open  and  slamming  the  door  of 
her  kitchen. 

Josephine  gazed  at  Constantia;  she  raised  her 
pale  eyebrows  until  they  rippled  away  into  her  pale 
hair.  She  got  up.  She  said  in  a  very  lofty,  im- 
posing way,  "Do  you  mind  following  me  into  the 
drawing-room,  Constantia?  I've  something  of 
great  Importance  to  discuss  with  you." 

For  It  was  always  to  the  drawing-room  they! 
retired  when  they  wanted  to  talk  over  Kate. 

Josephine  closed  the  door  meaningly.  "Sit  down, 
Constantia,"  she  said,  still  very  grand.  She  might 
have  been  receiving  Constantia  for  the  first  time. 
And  Con  looked  round  vaguely  for  a  chair,  as 
though  she  felt  Indeed  quite  a  stranger. 

"Now  the  question  is,"  said  Josephine,  bending 
forward,  "whether  we  shall  keep  her  or  not." 

"That  Is  the  question,"  agreed  Constantia. 

"And  this  time,"  said  Josephine  firmly,  "we  must 
come  to  a  definite  decision." 

Constantia  looked  for  a  moment  as  though  she 
might  begin  going  over   all   the   other  times,   but 

107 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

she  pulled  herself  together  and  said,  *'Yes,  Jug." 

"You  see,  Con,"  explained  Josephine,  "everything 
is  so  changed  now."  Constantia  looked  up  quickly. 
"I  mean,"  went  on  Josephine,  "weVe  not  depend- 
ent on  Kate  as  we  were."  And  she  blushed  faintly. 
"There's  not  father  to  cook  for." 

"That  is  perfectly  true,"  agreed  Constantia. 
"Father  certainly  doesn't  want  any  cooking  now, 
whatever  else " 

Josephine  broke  in  sharply,  "YouVe  not  sleepy, 
are  you,  Con?" 

"Sleepy,  Jug?"  Constantia  was  wide-eyed. 

"Well,  concentrate  more,"  said  Josephine  sharply, 
and  she  returned  to  the  subject.  "What  it  comes 
to  is,  if  we  did" — and  this  she  barely  breathed, 
glancing  at  the  door — "give  Kate  notice" — she 
raised  her  voice  again — "we  could  manage  our  own 
food." 

"Why  not?"  cried  Constantia.  She  couldn't 
help  smiling.  The  idea  was  so  exciting.  She 
clasped  her  hands.  What  should  we  live  on, 
Jug?" 

"Oh,  eggs  in  various  forms!"  said  Jug,  lofty 
again.  "And,  besides,  there  are  all  the  cooked 
foods." 

"But  I've  always  heard,"  said  Constantia,  "they 
are  considered  so  very  expensive." 

"Not  if  one  buys  them  in  moderation,"  said  Jo- 
sephine. But  she  tore  herself  away  from  this  fas- 
cinating bypath  and  dragged  Constantia  after  her. 

io8 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

"What  weVe  got  to  decide  now,  however,  is 
whether  we  really  do  trust  Kate  or  not." 

Constantia  leaned  back.  Her  flat  little  laugh 
flew  from  her  lips. 

"Isn't  it  curious,  Jug,"  said  she,  "that  just  on  this 
one  subject  I've  never  been  able  to  quite  make  up 
my  mind?" 


XI 

She  never  had.  The  whole  difficulty  was  to 
prove  anything.  How  did  one  prove  things,  how 
could  one?  Suppose  Kate  had  stood  in  front  of  her 
and  deliberately  made  a  face.  Mightn't  she  very 
well  have  been  in  pain?  Wasn't  it  impossible,  at 
any  rate,  to  ask  Kate  if  she  was  making  a  face  at 
her?  If  Kate  answered  "No" — and  of  course  she 
would  say  "No" — what  a  position!  How  undig- 
nified! Then  again  Constantia  suspected,  she  was 
almost  certain  that  Kate  went  to  her  chest  of 
drawers  when  she  and  Josephine  were  out,  not  to 
take  things  but  to  spy.  Many  times  she  had  come 
back  to  find  her  amethyst  cross  in  the  most  unlikely 
places,  under  her  lace  ties  or  on  top  of  her  evening 
Bertha.  More  than  once  she  had  laid  a  trap  for 
Kate.  She  had  arranged  things  in  a  special  order 
and  then  called  Josephine  to  witness. 

"You  see.  Jug?" 

"Quite,  Con." 

"Now  we  shall  be  able  to  tell" 
109 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

But,  oh  dear,  when  she  did  go  to  look,  she  was 
as  far  off  from  a  proof  as  ever!  If  anything  was 
displaced,  it  might  so  very  well  have  happened  as  she 
closed  the  drawer;  a  jolt  might  have  done  it  so 
easily. 

"You  come,  Jug,  and  decide.  I  really  can't.  It's 
too  difficult." 

But  after  a  pause  and  a  long  glare  Josephine 
would  sigh,  "Now  you've  put  the  doubt  into  my 
mind.  Con,  Fm  sure  I  can't  tell  myself." 

"Well,  we  can't  postpone  it  again,"  said  Jose- 
sephine.     "If  we  postpone  it  this  time " 

XII 

But  at  that  moment  in  the  street  below  a  barrel- 
organ  struck  up.  Josephine  and  Constantia  sprang 
to  their  feet  together. 

"Run,  Con,"  said  Josephine.  "Run  quickly. 
There's  sixpence  on  the " 

Then  they  remembered.  It  didn't  matter.  They 
would  never  have  to  stop  the  organ-grinder 
again.  Never  again  would  she  and  Constantia 
be  told  to  make  that  monkey  take  his  noise 
somewhere  else.  Never  would  sound  that  loud, 
strange  bellow  when  father  thought  they  were 
not  hurrying  enough.  The  organ-grinder  might 
play  there  all  day  and  the  stick  would  not 
thump. 

no 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

//  never  will  thump  again. 
It  never  will  thump  again, 

played  the  barrel-organ. 

What  was  Constantia  thinking?  She  had  such  a 
strange  smile ;  she  looked  different.  She  couldn't  be 
going  to  cry. 

"Jug,  Jug,"  said  Constantia  softly,  pressing  her 
hands  together.  "Do  you  know  what  day  it  Is?  It's 
Saturday.     It's  a  week  to-day,  a  whole  week." 

A  week  since  father  died, 
A  week  since  father  died, 

cried  the  barrel-organ.  And  Josephine,  too,  forgot 
to  be  practical  and  sensible;  she  smiled  faintly, 
strangely.  On  the  Indian  carpet  there  fell  a  square 
of  sunlight,  pale  red;  It  came  and  went  and  came — 
and  stayed,  deepened — until  It  shone  almost  golden. 

"The  sun's  out,"  said  Josephine,  as  though  It 
really  mattered. 

A  perfect  fountain  of  bubbling  notes  shook 
from  the  barrel-organ,  round,  bright  notes,  care- 
lessly scattered. 

Constantia  lifted  her  big,  cold  hands  as  If  to 
catch  them,  and  then  her  hands  fell  again.  She 
walked  over  to  the  mantelpiece  to  her  favourite 
Buddha.  And  the  stone  and  gilt  Image,  whose  smile 
always  gave  her  such  a  queer  feeling,  almost  a  pain 
and  yet  a  pleasant  pain,  seemed  to-day  to  be  more 
than  smiling.  He  knew  something;  he  had  a  secret. 
"I  know  something  that  you  don't  know,"  said  her 

III 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

Buddha.  Oh,  what  was  It,  what  could  it  be?  And 
yet  she  had  always  felt  there  was  .  .  .  something. 

The  sunlight  pressed  through  the  windows, 
thieved  its  way  in,  flashed  its  light  over  the  furni- 
ture and  the  photographs.  Josephine  watched  it. 
When  it  came  to  mother's  photograph,  the  enlarge- 
ment over  the  piano,  it  lingered  as  though  puzzled 
to  find  so  little  remained  of  mother,  except  the  ear- 
rings shaped  like  tiny  pagodas  and  a  black  feather 
boa.  Why  did  the  photographs  of  dead  people 
always  fade  so?  wondered  Josephine.  As  soon  as 
a  person  was  dead  their  photograph  died  too.  But, 
of  course,  this  one  of  mother  was  very  old.  It  was 
thirty-five  years  old.  Josephine  remembered  stand- 
ing on  a  chair  and  pointing  out  that  feather  boa  to 
Constantia  and  telling  her  that  It  was  a  snake  that 
had  killed  their  mother  in  Ceylon.  .  .  .  Would 
everything  have  been  different  if  mother  hadn't 
died?  She  didn't  see  why.  Aunt  Florence  had 
lived  with  them  until  they  had  left  school,  and  they 
had  moved  three  times  and  had  their  yearly  holi- 
day and  .  .  .  and  there'd  been  changes  of  serv- 
ants, of  course. 

Some  little  sparrows,  young  sparrows  they 
sounded,  chirped  on  the  window-ledge.  Yeep 
— eyeep — yeep.  But  Josephine  felt  they  were  not 
sparrows,  not  on  the  window-ledge.  It  was  inside 
her,  that  queer  little  crying  noise.  Yeep — eyeep — 
yeep.     Ah,  what  was  it  crying,  so  weak  and  forlorn  ? 

If  mother  had  lived,  might  they  have  married? 
112 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

But  there  had  been  nobody  for  them  to  marry. 
There  had  been  father's  Anglo-Indian  friends  be- 
fore he  quarrelled  with  them.  But  after  that  she 
and  Constantia  nev^er  met  a  single  man  except  clergy- 
men. How  did  one  meet  men?  Or  even  if  they'd 
met  them,  how  could  they  have  got  to  know  men 
well  enough  to  be  more  than  strangers?  One  read 
of  people  having  adventures,  being  followed,  and 
so  on.  But  nobody  had  ever  followed  Constantia 
and  her.  Oh  yes,  there  had  been  one  year  at  East- 
bourne a  mysterious  man  at  their  boarding-house 
who  had  put  a  note  on  the  jug  of  hot  water  outside 
their  bedroom  door!  But  by  the  time  Connie  had 
found  it  the  steam  had  made  the  writing  too  faint 
to  read;  they  couldn't  even  make  out  to  which  of 
them  it  was  addressed.  And  he  had  left  next  day. 
And  that  was  all.  The  rest  had  been  looking  after 
father,  and  at  the  same  time  keeping  out  of  father's 
way.  But  now?  But  now?  The  thieving  sun 
touched  Josephine  gently.  She  lifted  her  face. 
She  was  drawn  over  to  the  window  by  gentle 
beams.  .  .  . 

Until  the  barrel-organ  stopped  playing  Constan- 
tia stayed  before  the  Buddha,  wondering,  but  not 
as  usual,  not  vaguely.  This  time  her  wonder  was 
like  longing.  She  remembered  the  times  she  had 
come  in  here,  crept  out  of  bed  in  her  nightgown  when 
the  moon  was  full,  and  lain  on  the  floor  with  her 
arms  outstretched,  as  though  she  was  crucified. 
Why?  The  big,  pale  moon  had  made  her  do  it.  The 

113 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

horrible  dancing  figures  on  the  carved  screen  had 
leered  at  her  and  she  hadn't  minded.  She  remem- 
bered too  how,  whenev^er  they  were  at  the  seaside, 
she  had  gone  off  by  herself  and  got  as  close  to  the  sea 
as  she  could,  and  sung  something,  something  she 
had  made  up,  while  she  gazed  all  over  that  restless 
water.  There  had  been  this  other  life,  running  out, 
bringing  things  home  In  bags,  getting  things  on 
approval,  discussing  them  with  Jug,  and  taking  them 
back  to  get  more  things  on  approval,  and  arranging 
father's  trays  and  trying  not  to  annoy  father.  But 
it  all  seemed  to  have  happened  in  a  kind  of  tunnel. 
It  wasn't  real.  It  was  only  when  she  came  out  of 
the  tunnel  into  the  moonlight  or  by  the  sea  or  into 
a  thunderstorm  that  she  really  felt  herself.  What 
did  it  mean?  What  was  It  she  was  always  want- 
ing?    What  did  it  all  lead  to?     Now?     Now? 

She  turned  away  from  the  Buddha  with  one  of  her 
vague  gestures.  She  went  over  to  where  Josephine 
was  standing.  She  wanted  to  say  something  to 
Josephine,  something  frightfully  important,  about 
— about  the   future   and  what  .  .  . 

''Don't  you  think  perhaps "  she  began. 

But  Josephine  interrupted  her.  "I  was  wonder- 
ing if  now "   she  murmured.     They  stopped; 

they  waited  for  each  other. 

"Go  on.  Con,"  said  Josephine. 

"No,  no.  Jug;  after  you,"  said  Constantia. 

"No,  say  what  you  -were  going  to  say.  You 
began,"  said  Josephine. 

114 


The  Daughters  of  the  Late  Colonel 

"I  .  .  .  Pd  rather  hear  what  you  were  going  to 
say  first/'  said  Constantia. 

''Don't  be  absurd,  Con." 

"Really,  Jug." 

''Connie!" 

"Oh,  Jugr 

A  pause.  Then  Constantia  said  faintly,  *'I  can't 
say  what  I  was  going  to  say,  Jug,  because  I've  for- 
gotten what  it  was  .  .  .  that  I  was  going  to  say." 

Josephine  was  silent  for  a  moment.  She  stared 
at  a  big  cloud  where  the  sun  had  been.  Then  she 
replied  shortly,  "I've  forgotten  too." 


115 


MR.  AND  MRS.  DOVE 

OF  course  he  knew — no  man  better^ — that  he 
hadn't  a  ghost  of  a  chance,  he  hadn't  an 
earthly.  The  very  idea  of  such  a  thing 
was  preposterous.  So  preposterous  that  he'd  per- 
fectly understand  it  if  her  father — well,  whatever 
her  father  chose  to  do  he'd  perfectly  understand. 
In  fact,  nothing  short  of  desperation,  nothing  short 
of  the  fact  that  this  was  positively  his  last  day  in 
England  for  God  knows  how  long,  would  have 
screwed  him  up  to  it.  And  even  now  .  .  .  He 
chose  a  tie  out  of  the  chest  of  drawers,  a  blue  and 
cream  check  tie,  and  sat  on  the  side  of  his  bed. 
Supposing  she  replied,  "What  impertinence !"  would 
he  be  surprised?  Not  in  the  least,  he  decided, 
turning  up  his  soft  collar  and  turning  it  down  over 
the  tie.  He  expected  her  to  say  something  like 
that.  He  didn't  see,  if  he  looked  at  the  affair  dead 
soberly,  what  else  she  could  say. 

Here  he  was !  And  nervously  he  tied  a  bow  in 
front  of  the  mirror,  jammed  his  hair  down  wnth  both 
hands,  pulled  out  the  flaps  of  his  jacket  pockets. 
Making  between  £500  and  £600  a  year  on  a  fruit 
farm  in — of  all  places — Rhodesia.  No  capital. 
Not  a  penny  coming  to  him.  No  chance  of  his  in- 
come increasing  for  at  least  four  years.     As  for 

116 


Mr.  and  Mrs.  Dove 

looks  and  all  that  sort  of  thing,  he  was  completely 
out  of  the  running.  He  couldn't  even  boast  of  top- 
hole  health,  for  the  East  Africa  business  had 
knocked  him  out  so  thoroughly  that  he'd  had  to  take 
six  months'  leave.  He  was  still  fearfully  pale — 
worse  even  than  usual  this  afternoon,  he  thought, 
bending  forward  and  peering  into  the  mirror. 
Good  heavens!  What  had  happened?  His  hair 
looked  almost  bright  green.  Dash  it  all,  he  hadn't 
green  hair  at  all  events.  That  was  a  bit  too  steep. 
And  then  the  green  light  trembled  in  the  glass; 
it  was  the  shadow  from  the  tree  outside.  Reggie 
turned  away,  took  out  his  cigarette  case,  but  remem- 
bering how  the  mater  hated  him  to  smoke  in  his  bed- 
room, put  it  back  again  and  drifted  over  to  the  chest 
of  drawers.  No,  he  was  dashed  if  he  could  think 
of  one  blessed  thing  in  his  favour,  while  she  .  .  . 
Ah  I  .  .  .  He  stopped  dead,  folded  his  arms,  and 
leaned  hard  against  the  chest  of  drawers. 

And  in  spite  of  her  position,  her  father's  wealth, 
the  fact  that  she  was  an  only  child  and  far  and  away 
the  most  popular  girl  in  the  neighbourhood;  in  spite 
of  her  beautv  and  her  cleverness — cleverness! — it 
was  a  great  deal  more  than  that,  there  was  really 
nothing  she  couldn't  do;  he  fully  believed,  had  it 
been  necessary,  she  would  have  been  a  genius  at  any- 
thing— in  spite  of  the  fact  that  her  parents  adored 
her,  and  she  them,  and  they'd  as  soon  let  her  go  all 
that  way  as  ...  In  spite  of  every  single  thing  you 
could  think  of,   so  terrific  was  his  love   that  he 

117 


Mr.  and  Mrs.  Dove 

couldn't  help  hoping.  Well,  was  It  hope?  Or  was 
this  queer,  timid  longing  to  have  the  chance  of  look- 
ing after  her,  of  making  it  his  job  to  see  that  she  had 
everything  she  wanted,  and  that  nothing  came  near 
her  that  wasn't  perfect — just  love?  How  he  loved 
her!  He  squeezed  hard  against  the  chest  of 
drawers  and  murmured  to  it,  "I  love  her,  I  love 
her!"  And  just  for  the  moment  he  was  with  her 
on  the  way  to  Umtali.  It  was  night.  She  sat  in 
a  corner  asleep.  Her  soft  chin  was  tucked  into  her 
soft  collar,  her  gold-brown  lashes  lay  on  her  cheeks. 
He  doted  on  her  delicate  little  nose,  her  perfect  lips, 
her  ear  like  a  baby's,  and  the  gold-brown  curl  that 
half  covered  it.  They  were  passing  through  the 
jungle.  It  was  warm  and  dark  and  far  away. 
Then  she  woke  up  and  said,  "Have  I  been  asleep?" 
and  he  answered,  "Yes.     Are  you  all  right?     Here, 

let  me "     And  he  leaned  forward  to  .  .  .  He 

bent  over  her.  This  was  such  bliss  that  he  could 
dream  no  further.  But  it  gave  him  the  courage  to 
bound  downstairs,  to  snatch  his  straw  hat  from  the 
hall,  and  to  say  as  he  closed  the  front  door,  "Well, 
I  can  only  try  my  luck,  that's  all." 

But  his  luck  gave  him  a  nasty  jar,  to  say  the 
least,  almost  immediately.  Promenading  up  and 
down  the  garden  path  with  Chlnny  and  Biddy,  the 
ancient  Pekes,  was  the  mater.  Of  course  Reginald 
was  fond  of  the  mater  and  all  that.  She — she 
meant  well,  she  had  no  end  of  grit,  and  so  on. 
But  there  was  no  denying  it,  she  was  rather  a  grim 

ii8 


Mr.  and  Mrs.  Dove 

parent.  And  there  had  been  moments,  many  of 
them,  in  Reggie's  life,  before  Uncle  Alick  died  and 
left  him  the  fruit  farm,  when  he  was  convinced  that 
to  be  a  widow's  only  son  was  about  the  worst  pun- 
ishment a  chap  could  have.  And  what  made  it 
rougher  than  ever  was  that  she  was  positively  all 
that  he  had.  She  wasn't  only  a  combined  parent,  as 
it  were,  but  she  had  quarrelled  with  all  her  own  and 
the  governor's  relations  before  Reggie  had  won  his 
first  trouser  pockets.  So  that  whenever  Reggie  was 
homesick  out  there,  sitting  on  his  dark  veranda  by 
starlight,  while  the  gramophone  cried,  "Dear,  what 
is  Life  but  Love?"  his  only  vision  was  of  the  mater, 
tall  and  stout,  rustling  down  the  garden  path,  with 
Chlnny  and  Biddy  at  her  heels.  .  .  . 

The  mater,  with  her  scissors  outspread  to  snap 
the  head  of  a  dead  something  or  other,  stopped  at 
the  sight  of  Reggie. 

"You  are  not  going  out,  Reginald?"  she  asked, 
seeing  that  he  was. 

"I'll  be  back  for  tea,  mater,"  said  Reggie  weakly, 
plunging  his  hands  into  his  jacket  pockets. 

Snlp^     Off  came  a  head.     Reggie  almost  jumped. 

"I  should  have  thought  you  could  have  spared 
your  mother  your  last  afternoon,"  said  she. 

Silence.  The  Pekes  stared.  They  understood 
every  word  of  the  mater's.  Biddy  lay  down  with 
her  tongue  poked  out;  she  was  so  fat  and  glossy  she 
looked  like  a  lump  of  half-melted  toffee.  But  Chln- 
ny's  porcelain  eyes  gloomed  at  Reginald,  and  he 

119 


Mr.  and  Mrs.  Dove 

sniffed  faintly,  as  though  the  whole  world  were  one 
unpleasant  smell.  Snip,  went  the  scissors  again. 
Poor  little  beggars;  they  were  getting  it! 

"And  where  are  you  going,  if  your  mother  may 
ask?''  asked  the  mater. 

It  was  over  at  last,  but  Reggie  did  not  slow  down 
until  he  was  out  of  sight  of  the  house  and  half-way 
to  Colonel  Proctor's.  Then  only  he  noticed  what 
a  top-hole  afternoon  it  was.  It  had  been  raining 
all  the  morning,  late  summer  rain,  warm,  heavy, 
quick,  and  now  the  sky  was  clear,  except  for  a  long 
tail  of  little  clouds,  like  duckings,  sailing  over  the 
forest.  There  was  just  enough  wind  to  shake  the 
last  drops  off  the  trees;  one  warm  star  splashed  on 
his  hand.  Ping! — another  drummed  on  his  hat 
The  empty  road  gleamed,  the  hedges  smelled  of 
briar,  and  how  big  and  bright  the  hollyhocks  glowed 
in  the  cottage  gardens.  And  here  was  Colonel 
Proctor's — here  it  was  already.  His  hand  was  on 
the  gate,  his  elbow  jogged  the  syringa  bushes,  and 
petals  and  pollen  scattered  over  his  coat  sleeve. 
But  wait  a  bit.  This  was  too  quick  altogether. 
He'd  meant  to  think  the  whole  thing  out  again. 
Here,  steady.  But  he  was  walking  up  the  path, 
with  the  huge  rose  bushes  on  either  side.  It  can't 
be  done  like  this.  But  his  hand  had  grasped  the 
bell,  given  it  a  pull,  and  started  it  pealing  wildly,  as 
if  he'd  come  to  say  the  house  was  on  fire.  The 
housemaid  must  have  been  in  the  hall,  too,  for  the 
front  door  flashed  open,  and  Reggie  was  shut  in  the 

1 20 


Mr.  and  Mrs.  Dove 

empty  drawing-room  before  that  confounded  bell 
had  stopped  ringing.  Strangely  enough,  when  it 
did,  the  big  room,  shadowy,  with  some  one's  parasol 
lying  on  top  of  the  grand  piano,  bucked  him  up — or 
rather,  excited  him.  It  was  so  quiet,  and  yet  in  one 
moment  the  door  would  open,  and  his  fate  be  de- 
cided. The  feeling  was  not  unlike  that  of  being  at 
the  dentist's;  he  was  almost  reckless.  But  at  the 
same  time,  to  his  immense  surprise,  Reggie  heard 
himself  saying,  *'Lord,  Thou  knowest.  Thou  hast 
not  done  much  for  me.  .  .  ."  That  pulled  him  up; 
that  made  him  realize  again  how  dead  serious  it 
was.  Too  late.  The  door  handle  turned.  Anne 
came  in,  crossed  the  shadowy  space  between  them, 
gave  him  her  hand,  and  said,  in  her  small,  soft  voice, 
'Tm  so  sorry,  father  is  out.  And  mother  is  having 
a  day  in  town,  hat-hunting.  There's  only  me  to  en- 
tertain you,  Reggie." 

Reggie  gasped,  pressed  his  own  hat  to  his  jacket 
buttons,  and  stammered  out,  "As  a  matter  of  fact, 
I've  only  come  ...  to  say  good-bye." 

*'0h!"  cried  Anne  softly — she  stepped  back  from 
him  and  her  grey  eyes  danced — "what  a  very  short 
visit!" 

Then,  watching  him,  her  chin  tilted,  she  laughed 
outright,  a  long,  soft  peal,  and  walked  away  from 
him  over  to  the  piano,  and  leaned  against  it,  play- 
ing with  the  tassel  of  the  parasol. 

"I'm  so  sorry,"  she  said,  "to  be  laughing  like 
this.     I  don't  know  why  I  do.     It's  just  a  bad  ha- 

121 


Mr.  and  Mrs.  Dove 

habit."     And  suddenly  she  stamped  her  grey  shoe,^ 
and  took  a  pocket-handkerchief  out  of  her  white 
woolly  jacket.     "I  really  must  conquer  It,  it^s  too 
absurd,'*  said  she. 

"Good  heavens,  Anne,"  cried  Reggie,  "I  love  to 
hear  you  laughing!  I  can't  imagine  anything 
more " 

But  the  truth  was,  and  they  both  knew  it,  she 
wasn't  always  laughing;  It  wasn't  really  a  habit. 
Only  ever  since  the  day  they'd  met,  ever  since  that 
very  first  moment,  for  some  strange  reason  that 
Reggie  wished  to  God  he  understood,  Anne  had 
laughed  at  him.  Why?  It  didn't  matter  where 
they  were  or  what  they  were  talking  about.  They 
might  begin  by  being  as  serious  as  possible,  dead 
serious — at  any  rate,  as  far  as  he  was  concerned — 
but  then  suddenly,  in  the  middle  of  a  sentence,  Anne 
would  glance  at  him,  and  a  little  quick  quiver  passed 
over  her  face.  Her  lips  parted,  her  eyes  danced, 
and  she  began  laughing. 

Another  queer  thing  about  it  was,  Reggie  had  an 
Idea  she  didn't  herself  know  why  she  laughed.  He 
had  seen  her  turn  away,  frown,  suck  in  her  cheeks, 
press  her  hands  together.  But  it  was  no  use.  The 
long,  soft  peal  sounded,  even  while  she  cried,  "I 
don't  know  why  I'm  laughing."  It  was  a 
mystery.  .  .  . 

Now  she  tucked  the  handkerchief  away. 

'*Do  sit  down,"  said  she.  "And  smoke,  won't 
you?     There  are  cigarettes  In  that  little  box  beside 

122 


Mr.  and  Mrs.  Dove 

you.  I'll  have  one  too."  He  lighted  a  match  for 
her,  and  as  she  bent  forward  he  saw  the  tiny  flame 
glow  in  the  pearl  ring  she  wore.  "It  is  to-morrow 
that  you're  going,  isn't  it?"  said  Anne. 

*'Yes,  to-morrow  as  ever  was,"  said  Reggie,  and 
he  blew  a  little  fan  of  smoke.  Why  on  earth  was  he 
so  nervous?     Nervous  wasn't  the  word  for  it. 

*'It's — it's  frightfully  hard  to  believe,"  he  added. 

"Yes — isn't  it?"  said  Anne  softly,  and  she  leaned 
forward  and  rolled  the  point  of  her  cigarette  round 
the  green  ash-tray.  How  beautiful  she  looked  like 
that! — simply  beautiful — and  she  was  so  small  in 
that  immense  chair.  Reginald's  heart  swelled  with 
tenderness,  but  it  was  her  voice,  her  soft  voice,  that 
made  him  tremble.  "I  feel  you've  been  here  for 
years,"  she  said. 

Reginald  took  a  deep  breath  of  his  cigarette. 
"It's  ghastly,   this  idea   of  going  back,"   he  said. 

*'Coo-roo-coo-coO'COo,^^  sounded  from  the  quiet. 

"But  you're  fond  of  being  out  there,  aren't  you?" 
said  i\nne.  She  hooked  her  finger  through  her 
pearl  necklace.  "Father  was  saying  only  the  other 
night  how  lucky  he  thought  you  were  to  have  a  life 
of  your  own."  And  she  looked  up  at  him.  Regi- 
nald's smile  was  rather  wan.  "I  don't  feel  fearfully 
lucky,"  he  said  lightly. 

''''RoO'Coo-coo-coo^^  came  again.  And  Anne  mur- 
mured, "You  mean  it's  lonely." 

"Oh,  it  isn't  the  loneliness  I  care  about,"  said 
Reginald,  and  he  stumped  his  cigarette  savagely  on 

123 


Mr.  and  Mrs.  Dove 

the  green  ash-tray.  "I  could  stand  any  amount  of 
it,  used  to  like  it  even.  It's  the  idea  of "  Sud- 
denly, to  his  horror,  he  felt  himself  blushing. 

*^R  oo-co  o-co  o-co  of     Ro  o-coo-co  o-coo  r^ 

Anne  jumped  up.  "Come  and  say  good-bye  to 
my  doves,''  she  said.  "They've  been  moved  to  the 
side  veranda.  You  do  like  doves,  don't  you,  Reg- 
gie?" 

"Awfully,"  said  Reggie,  so  fervently  that  as  he 
opened  the  French  window  for  her  and  stood  to  one 
side,  Anne  ran  forward  and  laughed  at  the  doves 
instead. 

To  and  fro,  to  and  fro  over  the  fine  red  sand  on 
the  floor  of  the  dove  house,  walked  the  two  doves. 
One  was  always  in  front  of  the  other.  One  ran  for- 
ward, uttering  a  little  cry,  and  the  other  followed, 
solemnly  bowing  and  bowing.  "You  see,"  ex- 
plained Anne,  "the  one  in  front,  she's  Mrs.  Dove. 
She  looks  at  Mr.  Dove  and  gives  that  little  laugh 
and  runs  forward,  and  he  follows  her,  bowing  and 
bowing.  And  that  makes  her  laugh  again.  Away 
she  runs,  and  after  her,"  cried  Anne,  and  she  sat 
back  on  her  heels,  "comes  poor  Mr.  Dove,  bowing 
and  bowing  .  .  .  and  that's  their  whole  life.  They 
never  do  anything  else,  you  know."  She  got  up 
and  took  some  yellow  grains  out  of  a  bag  on  the 
roof  of  the  dove  house.  "When  you  think  of  them, 
out  in  Rhodesia,  Reggie,  you  can  be  sure  that  is 
what  they  will  be  doing.   .   .   ." 

Reggie  gave  no  sign  of  having  seen  the  doves  or 
124 


Mr.  and  Mrs.  Dove 

of  having  heard  a  word.  For  the  moment  he  was 
conscious  only  of  the  immense  effort  it  took  to  tear 
his  secret  out  of  himself  and  offer  it  to  Anne. 
"Anne,  do  you  think  you  could  ever  care  for  me?" 
It  was  done.  It  was  over.  And  in  the  little  pause 
that  followed  Reginald  saw  the  garden  open  to  the 
light,  the  blue  quivering  sky,  the  flutter  of  leaves  on 
the  veranda  poles,  and  Anne  turning  over  the 
grains  of  maize  on  her  palm  with  one  finger.  Then 
slowly  she  shut  her  hand,  and  the  new  world  faded 
as  she  murmured  slowly,  *'No,  never  in  that  way." 
But  he  had  scarcely  time  to  feel  anything  before 
she  walked  quickly  away,  and  he  followed  her  down 
the  steps,  along  the  garden  path,  under  the  pink 
rose  arches,  across  the  lawn.  There,  with  the  gay 
herbaceous  border  behind  her,  Anne  faced  Reg- 
inald. "It  isn't  that  Fm  not  awfully  fond  of  you," 
she  said.  "I  am.  But" — her  eyes  widened — "not 
in  the  way" — a  quiver  passed  over  her  face — "one 

ought  to  be  fond  of "     Her  lips  parted,  and 

she  couldn't  stop  herself.  She  began  laughing. 
"There,  you  see,  you  see,"  she  cried,  "it's  your 
check  t-tie.  Even  at  this  moment,  when  one  would 
think  one  really  would  be  solemn,  your  tie  reminds 
me  fearfully  of  the  bow-tie  that  cats  wear  in  pic- 
tures !  Oh,  please  forgive  me  for  being  so  horrid, 
please!" 

Reggie  caught  hold  of  her  little  warm  hand. 
"There's  no  question  of  forgiving  you,"  he  said 
quickly.     "How  could  there  be?     And  I  do  believe 

125 


Mr.  and  Mrs.  Dove 

I  know  why  I  make  you  laugh.  It's  because  you're 
so  far  above  me  in  every  way  that  I  am  somehow 
ridiculous.    I  see  that,  Anne.    But  if  I  were  to " 

*'No,  no."  Anne  squeezed  his  hand  hard.  "It's 
not  that.  That's  all  wrong.  Fm  not  far  above  you 
at  all.  You're  much  better  than  I  am.  You're 
marvellously  unselfish  and  .  .  .  and  kind  and  sim- 
ple. I'm  none  of  those  things.  You  don't  know 
me.  I'm  the  most  awful  character,"  said  Anne. 
"Please  don't  interrupt.  And  besides,  that's  not 
the  point.  The  point  is" — she  shook  her  head — 
"I   couldn't  possibly  marry  a  man   I  laughed  at. 

Surely    you    see    that.     The    man    I    marry " 

breathed  Anne  softly.  She  broke  off.  She  drew 
her  hand  away,  and  looking  at  Reggie  she  smiled 
strangely,  dreamily.     "The  man  I  marry " 

And  it  seemed  to  Reggie  that  a  tall,  handsome, 
brilliant  stranger  stepped  in  front  of  him  and  took 
his  place — the  kind  of  man  that  Anne  and  he  had 
seen  often  at  the  theatre,  walking  on  to  the  stage 
from  nowhere,  without  a  word  catching  the  heroine 
in  his  arms,  and  after  one  long,  tremendous  look, 
carrying  her  off  to  anywhere.  .  .  . 

Reggie  bowed  to  his  vision.  "Yes,  I  see,"  he 
said  huskily. 

"Do  you?"  said  Anne.  "Oh,  I  do  hope  you  do. 
Because  I  feel  so  horrid  about  it.     It's  so  hard  to 

explain.     You  know  I've  never "     She  stopped. 

Reggie  looked  at  her.  She  was  smiling.  "Isn't  it 
funny?"  she  said.     "I  can  say  anything  to  you.     I 

126 


Mr.  and  Mrs.  Dove 

always  have  been  able  to  from  the  very  beginning.'^ 

He  tried  to  smile,  to  say  "I'm  glad."  She  went 
on.  "Fve  never  known  any  one  I  like  as  much  as 
I  like  you.  I've  never  felt  so  happy  with  any  one. 
But  I'm  sure  it's  not  what  people  and  what  books 
mean  when  they  talk  about  love.  Do  you  under- 
stand? Oh,  if  you  only  knew  how  horrid  I 
feel.  But  we'd  be  like  .  .  .  like  Mr.  and  Mrs. 
Dove." 

That  did  it.  That  seemed  to  Reginald  final,  and 
so  terribly  true  that  he  could  hardly  bear  it. 
"Don't  drive  it  home,"  he  said,  and  he  turned  away 
from  Anne  and  looked  across  the  lawn.  There 
was  the  gardener's  cottage,  with  the  dark  ilex-tree 
beside  it.  A  wet,  blue  thumb  of  transparent  smoke 
hung  above  the  chimney.  It  didn't  look  real. 
How  his  throat  ached!  Could  he  speak?  He  had 
a  shot.  "I  must  be  getting  along  home,"  he 
croaked,  and  he  began  walking  across  the  lawn. 
But  Anne  ran  after  him.  "No,  don't.  You  can't 
go  yet,"  she  said  imploringly.  "You  can't  possibly 
go  away  feeling  like  that."  And  she  stared  up  at 
him  frowning,  biting  her  lip. 

"Oh,  that's  all  right,"  said  Reggie,  giving  him- 
self a  shake.     "I'll  .  .  .  I'll "     And  he  waved 

his  hand  as  much  to  say  "get  over  it." 

*'But  this  is  awful,"  said  Anne.  She  clasped  her 
hands  and  stood  in  front  of  him.  "Surely  you  do 
see  how  fatal  it  would  be  for  us  to  marry,  don't 
you?" 

127 


Mr.  and  Mrs.  Dove 

"Oh,  quite,  quite,"  said  Reggie,  looking  at  her 
with  haggard  eyes. 

"How  wrong,  how  wicked,  feeling  as  I  do.  I 
mean,  it's  all  very  well  for  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Dove. 
But  imagine  that  in  real  life — imagine  it!" 

"Oh,  absolutely,"  said  Reggie,  and  he  started  to 
walk  on.  But  again  Anne  stopped  him.  She  tugged 
at  his  sleeve,  and  to  his  astonishment,  this  time, 
instead  of  laughing,  she  looked  like  a  little  girl  who 
was  going  to  cry. 

"Then  why,  if  you  understand,  are  you  so  ur> 
unhappy?"  she  wailed.  "Why  do  you  mind  so  fear 
fully?     Why  do  you  look  so  aw-awful?" 

Reggie  gulped,  and  again  he  waved  something 
away.  "I  can't  help  it,"  he  said,  "IVe  had  a  blow. 
If  I  cut  off  now,  rU  be  able  to '' 

"How  can  you  talk  of  cutting  off  now?"  said 
Anne  scornfully.  She  stamped  her  foot  at  Reggie; 
she  was  crimson.  "How  can  you  be  so  cruel?  I 
can't  let  you  go  until  I  know  for  certain  that  you  are 
just  as  happy  as  you  were  before  you  asked  me  to 
marry  you.  Surely  you  must  see  that,  it's  so 
simple." 

But  it  did  not  seem  at  all  simple  to  Reginald.  It 
seemed  impossibly  difficult. 

"Even  if  I  can't  marry  you,  how  can  I  know  that 
you're  all  that  way  away,  with  only  that  awful 
mother  to  write  to,  and  that  you're  miserable,  and 
that  it's  all  my  fault?" 

"It's  not  your  fault.     Don't  think  that.     It's  just 
128 


Mr.  and  Mrs.  Dove 

"ate."  Reggie  took  her  hand  off  his  sleeve  and 
kissed  it.  "Don't  pity  me,  dear  little  Anne,"  he 
said  gently.  And  this  time  he  nearly  ran,  under 
the  pink  arches,  along  the  garden  path. 

'^Roo-coo-coo-coo!  Roo-coo-coo-cooP*  sounded 
from  the  veranda.  ''Reggie,  Reggie,"  from  the 
garden. 

He  stopped,  he  turned.  But  when  she  saw  his 
timid,  puzzled  look,  she  gave  a  little  laugh. 

"Come  back,  Mr.  Dove,"  said  Anne.  And  Reg- 
inald came  slowly  across  the  lawn. 


129 


THE  YOUNG  GIRL 

IN  her  blue  dress,  with  her  cheeks  lightly  flushed, 
her  blue,  blue  eyes,  and  her  gold  curls  pinned 
up  as  though  for  the  first  time — pinned 
up  to  be  out  of  the  way  for  her  flight — Mrs. 
Raddick's  daughter  might  have  just  dropped  from 
this  radiant  heaven.  Mrs.  Raddick's  timid,  faintly 
astonished,  but  deeply  admiring  glance  looked  as  if 
she  believed  it,  too;  but  the  daughter  didn't  appear 
any  too  pleased — why  should  she? — to  have  alighted 
on  the  steps  of  the  Casino.  Indeed,  she  was  bored 
— bored  as  though  Heaven  had  been  full  of  casinos 
with  snuffy  old  saints  for  croupiers  and  crowns  to 
play  with. 

^'You  don't  mind  taking  Hennie?"  said  Mrs.  Rad- 
dick.  "Sure  you  don't?  There's  the  car,  and 
you'll  have  tea  and  we'll  be  back  here  on  this  step — 
right  here — in  an  hour.  You  see,  I  want  her  to  go 
in.  She's  not  been  before,  and  it's  worth  seeing. 
I  feel  It  wouldn't  be  fair  to  her." 

"Oh,  shut  up,  mother,"  said  she  wearily.  "Come 
along.  Don't  talk  so  much.  And  your  bag's  open; 
you'll  be  losing  all  your  money  again." 

"I'm  sorry,  darling,"  said  Mrs.  Raddick. 

"Oh,  do  come  in!  I  want  to  make  money,"  said 
the  impatient  voice.  "It's  all  jolly  well  for  you — 
but  I'm  broke!" 

130 


The  Young  Girl 

*'Here — take  fifty  francs,  darling,  take  a  hun- 
dred I"  I  saw  Mrs.  Raddick  pressing  notes  into 
her  hand  as  they  passed  through  the  swing  doors. 

Hennie  and  I  stood  on  the  steps  a  minute,  watch- 
ing the  people.  He  had  a  very  broad,  delighted 
smile. 

*'I  say,"  he  cried,  "there's  an  English  bulldog. 
Are  they  allowed  to  take  dogs  In  there?" 

"No,  they're  not." 

"He's  a  ripping  chap,  Isn't  he?  I  wish  I  had 
one.  They're  such  fun.  They  frighten  people  so, 
and  they're  never  fierce  with  their — the  people  they 
belong  to."  Suddenly  he  squeezed  my  arm.  "I 
say,  do  look  at  that  old  woman.  Who  Is 
she?  Why  does  she  look  like  that?  Is  she  a 
gambler?" 

The  ancient,  withered  creature,  wearing  a  green 
satin  dress,  a  black  velvet  cloak  and  a  white  hat 
with  purple  feathers,  jerked  slowly,  slowly  up  the 
steps  as  though  she  were  being  drawn  up  on  wires. 
She  stared  in  front  of  her,  she  was  laughing  and 
nodding  and  cackling  to  herself;  her  claws  clutched 
round  what  looked  like  a  dirty  boot-bag. 

But  just  at  that  moment  there  was  Mrs.  Raddick 
again  with — her — and  another  lady  hovering  In  the 
background.  Mrs.  Raddick  rushed  at  me.  She 
was  brightly  flushed,  gay,  a  different  creature.  She 
was  like  a  woman  who  is  saying  "good-bye"  to  her 
friends  on  the  station  platform,  with  not  a  minute 
to  spare  before  the  train  starts. 

131 


The  Young  Girl 

"Oh,  you're  here,  still.  Isn't  that  lucky! 
You've  not  gone.  Isn't  that  fine!  I've  had  the 
most  dreadful  time  with — her,"  and  she  waved  to 
her  daughter,  who  stood  absolutely  still,  disdain- 
ful, looking  down,  twiddling  her  foot  on  the  step, 
miles  away.  "They  won't  let  her  in.  I  swore  she 
was  twenty-one.  But  they  won't  believe  me.  I 
showed  the  man  my  purse ;  I  didn't  dare  to  do  more. 
But  it  was  no  use.  He  simply  scoffed.  .  .  .  And 
now  I've  just  met  Mrs.  MacEwen  from  New  York, 
and  she  just  won  thirteen  thousand  in  the  Salle 
Privee — and  she  wants  me  to  go  back  with  her  while 
the  luck  lasts.  Of  course  I  can't  leave — her!  But 
if  you'd " 

At  that  "she"  looked  up;  she  simply  withered 
her  mother.  "Why  can't  you  leave  me?"  she  said 
furiously.  "What  utter  rot !  How  dare  you  make 
a  scene  like  this?  This  is  the  last  time  I'll  come 
out  with  you.  You  really  are  too  awful  for  words." 
She  looked  her  mother  up  and  down.  "Calm  your- 
self," she  said  superbly. 

Mrs.  Raddick  was  desperate,  just  desperate.  She 
was  "wild"  to  go  back  with  Mrs.  MacEwen,  but  at 
the  same  time  .  .  . 

I  seized  my  courage.  "Would  you — do  you  care 
to  come  to  tea  with — us?" 

"Yes,  yes,  she'll  be  delighted.  That's  just  what  I 
wanted,  isn't  it,  darling?  Mrs.  MacEwen  .  .  . 
I'll  be  back  here  in  an  hour  ...  or  less  .  .  . 
I'll " 

132 


The  Young  Girl 

Mrs.  R.  dashed  up  the  steps.  I  saw  her  bag 
was  open  again. 

So  we  three  were  left.  But  really  It  wasn't  my 
fault.  Hennle  looked  crushed  to  the  earth,  too. 
When  the  car  was  there  she  wrapped  her  dark  coat 
round  her — to  escape  contamination.  Even  her 
little  feet  looked  as  though  they  scorned  to  carry 
her  down  the  steps  to  us. 

'^I  am  so  awfully  sorry/'  I  murmured  as  the  car 
started. 

"Oh,  I  don't  mind/*  said  she.  "I  don't  zvant  to 
look  twenty-one.  Who  would — if  they  were  seven, 
teen!  It's" — and  she  gave  a  faint  shudder — "the 
stupidity  I  loathe,  and  being  stared  at  by  old  fat 
men.     Beasts!" 

Hennie  gave  her  a  quick  look  and  then  peered 
out  of  the  window. 

We  drew  up  before  an  immense  palace  of  pink* 
and-white  marble  with  orange-trees  outside  the 
doors  in  gold-and-black  tubs. 

"Would  you  care  to  go  in?"  I  suggested. 

She  hesitated,  glanced,  bit  her  lip,  and  resigned 
herself.  "Oh  well,  there  seems  nowhere  else," 
said  she.     "Get  out,  Hennie." 

I  went  first — to  find  the  table,  of  course — she 
followed.  But  the  worst  of  it  was  having  her  little 
brother,  who  was  only  twelve,  with  us.  That  was 
the  last,  final  straw — shaving  that  child,  trailing  at 
her  heels. 

There  was  one  table.,     It  had  pink  carnations 

133 


The  Young  Girl 

and  pink  plates  with  little  blue  tea-napkins  for  sails. 

"Shall  we  sit  here?" 

She  put  her  hand  wearily  on  the  back  of  a  white 
wicker  chair. 

"We  may  as  well.     Why  not?"  said  she. 

Hennie  squeezed  past  her  and  wriggled  on  to  a 
stool  at  the  end.  He  felt  awfully  out  of  it.  She 
didn't  even  take  her  gloves  off.  She  lowered  her 
eyes  and  drummed  on  the  table.  When  a  faint 
violin  sounded  she  winced  and  bit  her  lip  again. 
Silence. 

The  waitress  appeared.  I  hardly  dared  to  ask 
her.  "Tea — coffee?  China  tea — or  iced  tea  with 
lemon?" 

Really  she  didn't  mind.  It  was  all  the  same  to 
her.  She  didn't  really  want  anything.  Hennie 
whispered,  "Chocolate!" 

But  just  as  the  waitress  turned  away  she  cried 
out  carelessly,  "Oh,  you  may  as  well  bring  me  a 
chocolate,  too." 

While  we  waited  she  took  out  a  little,  gold 
powder-box  with  a  mirror  in  the  lid,  shook  the  poor 
little  puff  as  though  she  loathed  it,  and  dabbed  her 
lovely  nose. 

"Hennie,"  she  said,  "take  those  flowers  away." 
She  pointed  with  her  puff  to  the  carnations,  and  1 
heard  her  murmur,  "I  can't  bear  flowers  on  a  table." 
They  had  evidently  been  giving  her  intense  pain, 
for  she  positively  closed  her  eyes  as  I  moved  them 
away. 

134 


The  Young  Girl 

The  waitress  came  back  with  the  chocolate  and 
the  tea.  She  put  the  big,  frothing  cups  before  them 
and  pushed  across  my  clear  glass.  Hennie  buried 
his  nose,  emerged,  with,  for  one  dreadful  moment, 
a  little  trembling  blob  of  cream  on  the  tip.  But 
he  hastily  wiped  it  off  like  a  little  gentleman.  I 
wondered  if  I  should  dare  draw  her  attention  to 
her  cup.  She  didn't  notice  it — didn't  see  it — until 
suddenly,  quite  by  chance,  she  took  a  sip.  I  watched 
anxiously;  she  faintly  shuddered. 

"Dreadfully  sweet!"  said  she. 

A  tiny  boy  with  a  head  like  a  raisin  and  a  choco- 
late body  came  round  with  a  tray  of  pastries — row 
upon  row  of  little  freaks,  little  Inspirations,  little 
melting  dreams.  He  offered  them  to  her.  "Oh, 
I'm  not  at  all  hungry.     Take  them  away." 

He  offered  them  to  Hennie.  Hennie  gave  me  a 
swift  look — it  must  have  been  satisfactory — for  he 
took  a  chocolate  cream,  a  coffee  eclair,  a  meringue 
stuffed  with  chestnut  and  a  tiny  horn  filled  with  fresh 
strawberries.  She  could  hardly  bear  to  watch  him. 
But  just  as  the  boy  swerved  away  she  held  up  her 
plate. 

"Oh  well,  give  me  o«^/'  said  she. 

The  silver  tongs  dropped  one,  two,  three — and 
a  cherry  tartlet.  "I  don't  know  why  you're  giving 
me  all  these,"  she  said,  and  nearly  smiled.  "I 
shan't  eat  them;  I  couldn't!" 

I  felt  much  more  comfortable.  I  sipped  my  tea, 
leaned  back,  and  even  asked  if  I  might  smoke.     At 

135 


The  Young  Girl 

that  she  paused,  the  fork  In  her  hand,  opened  her 
eyes  and  really  did  smile.  "Of  course,"  said  she. 
"I  always  expect  people  to." 

But  at  that  moment  a  tragedy  happened  to 
Hennie.  He  speared  his  pastry  horn  too  hard,  and 
it  flew  in  two,  and  one  half  spilled  on  the  table. 
Ghastly  affair !  He  turned  crimson.  Even  his  ears 
flared,  and  one  ashamed  hand  crept  across  the  table 
to  take  what  was  left  of  the  body  away. 

"You  utter  little  beast!"  said  she. 

Good  heavens !  I  had  to  fly  to  the  rescue.  I 
cried  hastily,  "Will  you  be  abroad  long?" 

But  she  had  already  forgotten  Hennie.  I  was 
forgotten,  too.  She  was  trying  to  remember  some- 
thing.  .  .  .  She  was  miles  away. 

"I — don't — know,"  she  said  slowly,  from  that 
far  place. 

"I  suppose  you  prefer  it  to  London.  It*s  more 
— more " 

When  I  didn't  go  on  she  came  back  and  looked 
at  me,  very  puzzled.     "More ?" 

^'Enfin — gayer,"  I  cried,  waving  my  cigarette. 

But  that  took  a  whole  cake  to  consider.  Even 
then,  "Oh  well,  that  depends!"  was  all  she  could 
safely  say. 

Hennie  had  finished.     He  was  still  very  warm. 

I  seized  the  butterfly  list  off  the  table.  "I  say — 
what  about  an  ice,  Hennie?  What  about  tangerine 
and  ginger?  No,  something  cooler.  What  about 
a  fresh  pineapple  cream?" 

136 


The  Young  Girl 

Hennle  strongly  approved.  The  waitress  had  her 
eye  on  us.  The  order  was  taken  when  she  looked 
up  from  her  crumbs. 

"Did  you  say  tangerine  and  ginger?  I  like 
ginger.  You  can  bring  me  one."  And  then  quickly, 
"I  wish  that  orchestra  wouldn't  play  things  from  the 
year  One.  We  were  dancing  to  that  all  last  Christ- 
mas.    It's  too  sickening!" 

But  it  was  a  charming  air.  Now  that  I  noticed 
it,  it  warmed  me. 

**I  think  this  is  rather  a  nice  place,  don't  you, 
Hennie?"  I  said. 

Hennie  said:  "Ripping!"  He  meant  to  say  it 
very  low,  but  it  came  out  very  high  in  a  kind  of 
squeak. 

Nice?  This  place?  Nice?  For  the  first  time 
she  stared  about  her,  trying  to  see  what  there  was. 
.  .  .  She  blinked;  her  lovely  eyes  wondered.  A 
very  good-looking  elderly  man  stared  back  at  her 
through  a  monocle  on  a  black  ribbon.  But  him  she 
simply  couldn't  see.  There  was  a  hole  in  the  air 
v/here  he  was.  She  looked  through  and  through 
him. 

Finally  the  little  flat  spoons  lay  still  on  the  glass 
plates.  Hennie  looked  rather  exhausted,  but  she 
pulled  on  her  white  gloves  again.  She  had  some 
trouble  with  her  diamond  wrist-watch ;  it  got  in  her 
way.  She  tugged  at  it — tried  to  break  the  stupid 
little  thing — it  wouldn't  break.  Finally,  she  had 
to  drag  her  glove  over.  I  saw,  after  that,  she 
\  ,  137 


The  Young  Girl 

couldn't  stand  this  place  a  moment  longer,  and,  in- 
deed, she  jumped  up  and  turned  away  while  I  went 
through  the  vulgar  act  of  paying  for  the  tea. 

And  then  we  were  outside  again.  It  had  grown 
dusky.  The  sky  was  sprinkled  with  small  stars; 
the  big  lamps  glowed.  While  we  waited  for  the  car 
to  come  up  she  stood  on  the  step,  just  as  before, 
twiddling  her  foot,  looking  down. 

Hennie  bounded  forward  to  open  the  door  and 
she  got  in  and  sank  back  with — oh — such  a  sigh! 

''Tell  him,''  she  gasped,  "to  drive  as  fast  as  he 
can." 

Hennie  grinned  at  his  friend  the  chauffeur. 
**Allie  veetF*  said  he.  Then  he  composed  himself 
and  sat  on  the  small  seat  facing  us. 

The  gold  powder-box  came  out  again.  Again 
the  poor  little  puff  was  shaken;  again  there  was  that 
swift,  deadly-secret  glance  between  her  and  the 
mirror. 

We  tore  through  the  black-and-gold  town  like  a 
pair  of  scissors  tearing  through  brocade.  Hennie 
had  great  difficulty  not  to  look  as  though  he  were 
hanging  on  to  something. 

i\nd  when  we  reached  the  Casino,  of  course  Mrs. 
Raddick  wasn't  there.  There  wasn't  a  sign  of  her 
on  the  steps — not  a  sign. 

"Will  you  stay  in  the  car  while  I  go  and  look?" 

But  no — she  wouldn't  do  that.  Good  heavens, 
no !  Hennie  could  stay.  She  couldn't  bear  sitting 
in  a  car.     She'd  wait  on  the  steps. 

138 


The  Young  Girl 

"But  I  scarcely  like  to  leave  you/'  I  murmured. 
"I'd  very  much  rather  not  leave  you  here." 

At  that  she  threw  back  her  coat;  she  turned  and 
faced  me;  her  lips  parted.  "Good  heavens — ^why! 
I — I  don't  mind  it  a  bit.  I — I  like  waiting." 
And  suddenly  her  cheeks  crimsoned,  her  eyes  grew 
dark — for  a  moment  I  thought  she  was  going  to 
cry.  "L^ — let  me,  please,"  she  stammered,  in  a 
warm,  eager  voice.  "I  like  it.  I  love  waiting! 
Really — really  I  do!  I'm  always  waiting — in  all 
kinds  of  places.  .  .  ." 

Her  dark  coat  fell  open,  and  her  white  throat — 
all  her  soft  young  body  in  the  blue  dress — ^was  like 
a  flower  that  is  just  emerging  from  its  dark  bud. 


139 


LIFE  OF  MA  PARKER 

WHEN  the  literary  gentleman,  whose  flat 
old  Ma  Parker  cleaned  every  Tuesday, 
opened  the  door  to  her  that  morning,  he 
asked  after  her  grandson.  Ma  Parker  stood  on  the 
doormat  inside  the  dark  little  hall,  and  she  stretched 
out  her  hand  to  help  her  gentleman  shut  the  door  be- 
fore she  replied.  ^'We  burled  'im  yesterday,  sir,'' 
she  said  quietly. 

"Oh,  dear  me !  Pm  sorry  to  hear  that,'*  said  the 
literary  gentleman  In  a  shocked  tone.  He  was  in 
the  middle  of  his  breakfast.  He  wore  a  very  shabby 
dressing-gown  and  carried  a  crumpled  newspaper 
in  one  hand.  But  he  felt  awkward.  He  could 
hardly  go  back  to  the  warm  sitting-room  without 
saying  something — something  more.  Then  because 
these  people  set  such  store  by  funerals  he  said  kindly, 
"I  hope  the  funeral  went  off  all  right." 

"Beg  parding,  sir?"  said  old  Ma  Parker  huskily. 

Poor  old  bird!  She  did  look  dashed.  "I  hope 
the  funeral  was  a — a — success,"  said  he.  Ma  Par- 
ker gave  no  answer.  She  bent  her  head  and  hob- 
bled off  to  the  kitchen,  clasping  the  old  fish  bag  that 
held  her  cleaning  things  and  an  apron  and  a  pair  of 
felt  shoes.  The  literary  gentleman  raised  his  eye- 
brows and  went  back  to  his  breakfast. 

140 


Life  of  Ma  Parker 

"Overcome,  I  suppose/'  he  said  aloud,  helping 
himself  to  the  marmalade. 

Ma  Parker  drew  the  two  jetty  spears  out  of  her 
toque  and  hung  it  behind  the  door.  She  unhooked 
her  worn  jacket  and  hung  that  up  too.  Then  she 
tied  her  apron  and  sat  down  to  take  off  her  boots. 
To  take  off  her  boots  or  to  put  them  on  was  an 
agony  to  her,  but  it  had  been  an  agony  for  years. 
In  fact,  she  was  so  accustomed  to  the  pain  that  her 
face  was  drawn  and  screwed  up  ready  for  the  twinge 
before  she'd  so  much  as  untied  the  laces.  That 
over,  she  sat  back  with  a  sigh  and  softly  rubbed  her 
knees.  .  .  . 

"Gran!  Gran!"  Her  little  grandson  stood  on 
her  lap  in  his  button  boots.  He'd  just  come  in  from 
playing  in  the  street. 

"Look  what  a  state  you've  made  your  gran's  skirt 
into — you  wicked  boy!" 

But  he  put  his  arms  round  her  neck  and  rubbed 
his  cheek  against  hers. 

"Gran,  gi'  us  a  penny!"  he  coaxed. 

"Be  off  with  you ;  Gran  ain't  got  no  pennies." 

"Yes,  you  'ave." 

"No,  I  ain't." 

"Yes,  you  'ave.     Gi'  us  one !" 

Already  she  was  feeling  for  the  old,  squashed, 
black  leather  purse. 

"Well,  what'U  you  give  your  gran?" 

He  gave  a  shy  little  laugh  and  pressed  closer. 
141 


Life  of  Ma  Parker 

She  felt  his  eyelid  quivering  against  her  cheek.     *'I 
ain't  got  nothing,"  he  murmured.  .  .  . 

The  old  woman  sprang  up,  seized  the  iron  kettle 
off  the  gas  stove  and  took  it  over  to  the  sink.  The 
noise  of  the  water  drumming  in  the  kettle  deadened 
her  pain,  it  seemed.  She  filled  the  pail,  too,  and  the 
washing-up  bowl. 

It  would  take  a  whole  book  to  describe  the  state 
of  that  kitchen.  During  the  week  the  literary  gen- 
tleman "did"  for  himself.  That  is  to  say,  he  emp- 
tied the  tea  leaves  now  and  again  into  a  jam  jar 
set  aside  for  that  purpose,  and  if  he  ran  out  of 
clean  forks  he  wiped  over  one  or  two  on  the  roller 
towel.  Otherwise,  as  he  explained  to  his  friends, 
his  "system"  was  quite  simple,  and  he  couldn't  under- 
stand why  people  made  all  this  fuss  about  house- 
keeping. 

"You  simply  dirty  everything  you've  got,  get 
a  hag  in  once  a  week  to  clean  up,  and  the  thing's 
done." 

The  result  looked  like  a  gigantic  dustbin.  Even 
the  floor  was  littered  with  toast  crusts,  envelopes, 
cigarette  ends.  But  Ma  Parker  bore  him  no 
grudge.  She  pitied  the  poor  young  gentleman  for 
having  no  one  to  look  after  him.  Out  of  the 
smudgy  little  window  you  could  see  an  immense  ex- 
panse of  sad-looking  sky,  and  whenever  there  were 
clouds  they  looked  very  worn,  old  clouds,  frayed  at 

142 


Life  of  Ma  Parker 

the  edges,  with  holes  in  them,  or  dark  stains  like 
tea. 

While  the  water  was  heating.  Ma  Parker  began 
sweeping  the  floor.  "Yes,"  she  thought,  as  the 
broom  knocked,  "what  with  one  thing  and  another 
Fve  had  my  share.     Fve  had  a  hard  life." 

Even  the  neighbours  said  that  of  her.  Many 
a  time,  hobbling  home  with  her  fish  bag  she  heard 
them,  waiting  at  the  corner,  or  leaning  over  the 
area  railings,  say  among  themselves,  "She's  had  a 
hard  life,  has  Ma  Parker."  And  it  was  so  true 
she  wasn't  in  the  least  proud  of  it.  It  was  just  as 
if  you  were  to  say  she  lived  in  the  basement-back 
at  Number  27.     A  hard  life  I  .  .  . 

At  sixteen  she'd  left  Stratford  and  come  up  to 
London  as  kitching-mald.  Yes,  she  was  born  In 
Stratford-on-Avon.  Shakespeare,  sir?  No,  people 
were  always  arsking  her  about  him.  But  she'd  never 
heard  his  name  until  she  saw  it  on  the  theatres. 

Nothing  remained  of  Stratford  except  that  "sit- 
ting in  the  fire-place  of  a  evening  you  could  see  the 
stars  through  the  chimley,"  and  "Mother  always 
'ad  'er  side  of  bacon  'anging  from  the  ceiling." 
And  there  was  something — a  bush,  there  was — at 
the  front  door,  that  smelt  ever  so  nice.  But  the 
bush  was  very  vague.  She'd  only  remembered  it 
once  or  twice  in  the  hospital,  when  she'd  been  taken 
bad. 

143 


Life  of  Ma  Parker 

That  was  a  dreadful  place — her  first  place.  She 
was  never  allowed  out.  She  never  went  upstairs 
except  for  prayers  morning  and  evening.  It  was  a 
fair  cellar.  And  the  cook  was  a  cruel  woman. 
She  used  to  snatch  away  her  letters  from  home  be- 
fore she'd  read  them,  and  throw  them  in  the  range 
because  they  made  her  dreamy.  .  .  .  And  the 
beedles!  Would  you  believe  it? — until  she  came  to 
London  she'd  never  seen  a  black  beedle.  Here  Ma 
always  gave  a  little  laugh,  as  though — not  to  have 
seen  a  black  beedle!  Well!  It  was  as  if  to  say 
you'd  never  seen  your  own  feet. 

When  that  family  was  sold  up  she  went  as  "help" 
to  a  doctor's  house,  and  after  two  years  there,  on 
the  run  from  morning  till  night,  she  married  her 
husband.     He  was  a  baker. 

"A  baker,  Mrs.  Parker!"  the  literary  gentleman 
would  say.  For  occasionally  he  laid  aside  his  tomes 
and  lent  an  ear,  at  least,  to  this  product  called  Life. 
*'It  must  be  rather  nice  to  be  married  to  a  baker  Vy 

Mrs.  Parker  didn't  look  so  sure. 

"Such  a  clean  trade,"  said  the  gentleman. 

Mrs.  Parker  didn't  look  convinced. 

"And  didn't  you  like  handing  the  new  loaves  to 
the  customers?" 

"Well,  sir,"  said  Mrs.  Parker,  "I  wasn't  in  the 
shop  above  a  great  deal.  We  had  thirteen  little 
ones  and  buried  seven  of  them.  If  it  wasn't  the 
'ospital  it  was  the  infirmary,  you  might  say!" 

"You  might,  indeed,  Mrs.  Parker!"  said  the 
144 


Life  of  Ma  Parker 

gentleman,  shuddering,  and  taking  up  his  pen  again. 

Yes,  seven  had  gone,  and  while  the  six  were  still 
small  her  husband  was  taken  111  with  consumption. 
It  was  flour  on  the  lungs,  the  doctor  told  her  at  the 
time.  .  .  .  Her  husband  sat  up  In  bed  with  his 
shirt  pulled  over  his  head,  and  the  doctor's  finger 
drew  a  circle  on  hrls  back. 

*'Now,  if  we  were  to  cut  him  open  herCy  Mrs. 
Parker,"  said  the  doctor,  *'you'd  find  his  lungs  chock- 
a-block  with  white  powder.  Breathe,  my  good 
fellow!"  And  Mrs.  Parker  never  knew  for  certain 
whether  she  saw  or  whether  she  fancied  she  saw  a 
great  fan  of  white  dust  come  out  of  her  poor  dead 
husband's  lips.  .  .   . 

But  the  struggle  she'd  had  to  bring  up  those  six 
little  children  and  keep  herself  to  herself.  Terrible 
It  had  been !  Then,  just  when  they  were  old  enough 
to  go  to  school  her  husband's  sister  came  to  stop  with 
them  to  help  things  along,  and  she  hadn't  been  there 
more  than  two  months  when  she  fell  down  a  flight  of 
steps  and  hurt  her  spine.  And  for  five  years  Ma 
Parker  had  another  baby — and  such  a  one  for  cry- 
ing!— to  look  after.  Then  young  Maudie  went 
wrong  and  took  her  sister  Alice  with  her;  the  two 
boys  emigrlmated,  and  young  Jim  went  to  India 
with  the  army,  and  Ethel,  the  youngest,  married  a 
good-for-nothing  little  waiter  who  died  of  ulcers 
the  year  little  Lennie  was  born.  And  now  little 
Lennle — my  grandson.  .  .  . 

The  piles  of  dirty  cups,  dirty  dishes,  were  washed 

145 


Life  of  Ma  Parker 

and  dried.  The  ink-black  knives  were  cleaned  with 
a  piece  of  potato  and  finished  off  with  a  piece  of 
cork.  The  table  was  scrubbed,  and  the  dresser  and 
the  sink  that  had  sardine  tails  swimming  in  it.   .  .  . 

He'd  never  been  a  strong  child — never  from  the 
first.  He'd  been  one  of  those  fair  babies  that  every- 
body took  for  a  girl.  Silvery  fair  curls  he  had, 
blue  eyes,  and  a  little  freckle  like  a  diamond  on  one 
side  of  his  nose.  The  trouble  she  and  Ethel  had 
had  to  rear  that  child !  The  things  out  of  the  news- 
papers they  tried  him  with !  Every  Sunday  morn- 
ing Ethel  would  read  aloud  while  Ma  Parker  did  her 
washing. 

*'Dear  Sir, — Just  a  line  to  let  you  know  my  little 
Myrtll  was  laid  out  for  dead.  .  .  .  After  four 
bottils  .  .  .  gained  8  lbs.  in  9  weeks,  and  is  still 
putting  it  on,*' 

And  then  the  egg-cup  of  ink  would  come  off  the 
dresser  and  the  letter  would  be  written,  and  Ma 
would  buy  a  postal  order  on  her  way  to  work  next 
morning.  But  it  was  no  use.  Nothing  made  little 
Lennle  put  It  on.  Taking  him  to  the  cemetery, 
even,  never  gave  him  a  colour ;  a  nice  shake-up  In  the 
bus  never  Improved  his  appetite. 

But  he  was  gran's  boy  from  the  first.  .  .  . 

"Whose  boy  are  you?"  said  old  Ma  Parker, 
straightening  up  from  the  stove  and  going  over  to 
the  smudgy  window.  And  a  little  voice,  so  warm, 
so  close,  it  half  stifled  her — it  seemed  to  be  in  her 

146 


Life  of  Ma  Parker 

breast  under  her  heart — laughed  out,  and  said,  "Fm 
gran's  boy!" 

At  that  moment  there  was  a  sound  of  steps,  and 
the  literary  gentleman  appeared,  dressed  for  walk- 
ing. 

"Oh,  Mrs.  Parker,  Fm  going  out." 

"Very  good,  sir." 

"And  you'll  find  your  half-crown  in  the  tray  of  the 
inkstand." 

"Thank  you,  sir." 

"Oh,  by  the  way,  Mrs.  Parker,"  said  the  literary 
gentleman  quickly,  "you  didn't  throw  away  any 
cocoa  last  time  you  were  here — did  you?" 

"No,  sir." 

**Very  strange.  I  could  have  sworn  I  left  a  tea- 
spoonful  of  cocoa  in  the  tin."  He  broke  off.  He 
said  softly  and  firmly,  'Tou'U  always  tell  me  when 
you  throw  things  away — won't  you,  Mrs.  Parker?" 
And  he  walked  off  very  well  pleased  with  himself, 
convinced,  in  fact,  he'd  shown  Mrs.  Parker  that 
under  his  apparent  carelessness  he  was  as  vigilant  as 
a  woman. 

The  door  banged.  She  took  her  brushes  and 
cloths  into  the  bedroom.  But  when  she  began  to 
make  the  bed,  smoothing,  tucking,  patting,  the 
thought  of  little  Lennie  was  unbearable.  Why 
did  he  have  to  suffer  so?  That's  what  she  couldn't 
understand.  Why  should  a  little  angel  child  have 
to  arsk  for  his  breath  and  fight  for  it?  There  was 
no  sense  in  making  a  child  suffer  like  that. 

147 


Life  of  Ma  Parker 

.  .  .  From  Lennle's  little  box  of  a  chest  there 
came  a  sound  as  though  something  was  boiling. 
There  was  a  great  lump  of  something  bubbling  in 
his  chest  that  he  couldn't  get  rid  of.  When  he 
coughed  the  sweat  sprang  out  on  his  head;  his  eyes 
bulged,  his  hands  waved,  and  the  great  lump  bub- 
bled as  a  potato  knocks  in  a  saucepan.  But  what 
was  more  awful  than  all  was  when  he  didn't  cough 
he  sat  against  the  pillow  and  never  spoke  or  an- 
swered, or  even  made  as  if  he  heard.  Only  he 
looked  offended. 

"It's  not  your  poor  old  gran's  doing  it,  my  lovey,'* 
said  old  Ma  Parker,  patting  back  the  damp  hair 
from  his  little  scarlet  ears.  But  Lennie  moved  his 
head  and  edged  away.  Dreadfully  offended  with 
her  he  looked — and  solemn.  He  bent  his  head  and 
looked  at  her  sideways  as  though  he  couldn't  have 
believed  it  of  his  gran. 

But  at  the  last  .  .  .  Ma  Parker  threw  the 
counterpane  over  the  bed.  No,  she  simply  couldn't 
think  about  it.(  It  was  too  much — she'd  had  too 
much  in  her  life  to  bear.  She'd  borne  it  up  till  now, 
she'd  kept  herself  to  herself,  and  never  once  had  she 
been  seen  to  cry.  Never  by  a  living  soul.  Not 
even  her  own  children  had  seen  Ma  break  down. 
She'd  kept  a  proud  face  always.  But  now  1  Lennie 
gone — what  had  she?  She  had  nothing.  He  was 
all  she'd  got  from  life,  and  now  he  was  took  too. 
Why  must  it  all  have  happened  to  me?  she  won- 

148 


Life  of  Ma  Parker 

dered.     "What  have  I  done?"  said  old  Ma  Parker. 
"What  have  I  done?" 

As  she  said  those  words  she  suddenly  let  fall  her 
brush.  She  found  herself  in  the  kitchen.  Her 
misery  was  so  terrible  that  she  pinned  on  her  hat, 
put  on  her  jacket  and  walked  out  of  the  flat  like  a 
person  in  a  dream.  She  did  not  know  what  she  was 
doing.  She  was  like  a  person  so  dazed  by  the  hor- 
ror of  what  has  happened  that  he  walks  away — 
anywhere,  as  though  by  walking  away  he  could 
escape.  .... 

It  was  cold  in  the  street.  There  was  a  wind  like 
ice.  People  went  flitting  by,  very  fast;  the  men 
walked  like  scissors;  the  women  trod  like  cats.  And 
nobody  knew — nobody  cared.  Even  if  she  broke 
down,  if  at  last,  after  all  these  years,  she  were  to 
cry,  sheM  find  herself  in  the  lock-up  as  like  as  not. 

But  at  the  thought  of  crying  it  was  as  though 
little  Lennie  leapt  in  his  gran's  arms.  Ah,  that's 
what  she  wants  to  do,  my  dove.  Gran  wants  to 
cry.  If  she  could  only  cry  now,  cry  for  a  long  time, 
over  everything,  beginning  with  her  first  place  and 
the  cruel  cook,  going  on  to  the  doctor's,  and  then  the 
seven  little  ones,  death  of  her  husband,  the  chil- 
dren's leaving  her,  and  all  the  years  of  misery  that 
led  up  to  Lennie.  But  to  have  a  proper  cry  over  all 
these  things  would  take  a  long  time.  All  the  same, 
the  time  for  it  had  come.     She  must  do  it.     She 

149 


Life  of  Ma  Parker 

couldn't  put  it  off  any  longer ;  she  couldn't  wait  any 
more.  .  .  .,  Where  could  she  go? 

"She's  had  a  hard  life,  has  Ma  Parker."  Yes,  a 
hard  life,  indeed!  Her  chin  began  to  tremble; 
there  was  no  time  to  lose.     But  where  ?     Where  ? 

She  couldn't  go  home;  Ethel  was  there.  It 
would  frighten  Ethel  out  of  her  life.  She  couldn't 
sit  on  a  bench  anywhere ;  people  would  come  arsking 
her  questions.  She  couldn't  possibly  go  back  to  the 
gentleman's  flat;  she  had  no  right  to  cry  in  strangers' 
houses.  If  she  sat  on  some  steps  a  policeman  would 
speak  to  her. 

Oh,  wasn't  there  anywhere  where  she  could  hide 
and  keep  herself  to  herself  and  stay  as  long  as  she 
liked,  not  disturbing  anybody,  and  nobody  worry- 
ing her?  Wasn't  there  anywhere  in  the  world 
where  she  could  have  her  cry  out — at  last? 

Ma  Parker  stood,  looking  up  and  down.  The 
icy  wind  blew  out  her  apron  into  a  balloon.  And 
now  it  began  to  rain.     There  was  nowhere. 


150 


MARRIAGE  A  LA  MODE 

ON  his  way  to  the  station  William  remem- 
bered with  a  fresh  pang  of  disappointment 
that  he  was  taking  nothing  down  to  the 
kiddies.  Poor  little  chaps!  It  was  hard  lines  on 
them.  Their  first  words  always  were  as  they  ran 
to  greet  him,  "What  have  you  got  for  me,  daddy?" 
and  he  had  nothing.  He  would  have  to  buy  them 
some  sweets  at  the  station.  But  that  was  what  he 
had  done  for  the  past  four  Saturdays;  their  faces 
had  fallen  last  time  when  they  saw  the  same  old 
boxes  produced  again. 

And  Paddy  had  said,  "I  had  red  ribbing  on  mine 

And  Johnny  had  said,  "It's  always  pink  on  mine. 
I  hate  pink." 

But  what  was  William  to  do?  The  affair  wasn't 
so  easily  settled.  In  the  old  days,  of  course,  he 
would  have  taken  a  taxi  off  to  a  decent  toyshop 
and  chosen  them  something  in  five  minutes.  But 
nowadays  they  had  Russian  toys,  French  toys,  Serb- 
Ian  toys — toys  from  God  knows  where.  It  was 
over  a  year  since  Isabel  had  scrapped  the  old  don- 
keys and  engines  and  so  on  because  they  were  so 
"dreadfully  sentimental"  and  "so  appalhngly  bad 
for  the  babies'  sense  of  form." 

151 


Marriage  a  La  Mode 

"It's  so  important,"  the  new  Isabel  had  explained, 
*'that  they  should  like  the  right  things  from  the 
very  beginning.  It  saves  so  much  time  later  on. 
Really,  if  the  poor  pets  have  to  spend  their  infant 
years  staring  at  these  horrors,  one  can  imagine  them 
growing  up  and  asking  to  be  taken  to  the  Royal 
Academy." 

And  she  spoke  as  though  a  visit  to  the  Royal 
Academy  was  certain  immediate  death  to  any 
one.  .  .  . 

"Well,  I  don't  know,"  said  William  slowly. 
''When  I  was  their  age  I  used  to  go  to  bed  hugging 
an  old  towel  with  a  knot  in  it." 

The  new  Isabel  looked  at  him,  her  eyes  nar- 
rowed, her  lips  apart. 

^^Dear  William!  Fm  sure  you  did!"  She 
laughed  in  the  new  way. 

Sweets  it  would  have  to  be,  however,  thought  Wil- 
liam gloomily,  fishing  in  his  pocket  for  change  for 
the  taxi-man.  And  he  saw  the  kiddies  handing  the 
boxes  round — they  were  awfully  generous  little 
chaps — while  Isabel's  precious  friends  didn't  hesi- 
tate to  help  themselves.  .  .  . 

What  about  fruit?  William  hovered  before  a 
stall  just  inside  the  station.  What  about  a  melon 
each?  Would  they  have  to  share  that,  too?  Or 
a  pineapple  for  Pad,  and  a  melon  for  Johnny? 
Isabel's  friends  could  hardly  go  sneaking  up  to  the 
nursery  at  the  children's  meal-times.  All  the  same, 
as  he  bought  the  melon  William  had  a  horrible 


( 


Marriage  a  La  Mode 

vision  of  one  of  Isabel's  young  poets  lapping 
up  a  slice,  for  some  reason,  behind  the  nursery 
door. 

With  his  two  very  awkward  parcels  he  strode  off 
to  his  train.  The  platform  was  crowded,  the  train 
was  in.  Doors  banged  open  and  shut.  There 
came  such  a  loud  hissing  from  the  engine  that  people 
looked  dazed  as  they  scurried  to  and  fro.  Wil- 
liam made  straight  for  a  first-class  smoker,  stowed 
away  his  suit-case  and  parcels,  and  taking  a  huge 
wad  of  papers  out  of  his  inner  pocket,  he  flung 
down  in  the  corner  and  began  to  read. 

"Our  client  moreover  is  positive.  .  .  .  We  are 

inclined  to  reconsider  ...  in  the  event  of " 

Ah,  that  was  better.  William  pressed  back  his  flat- 
tened hair  and  stretched  his  legs  across  the  carriage 
floor.  The  familiar  dull  gnawing  in  his  breast 
quietened  down.  "With  regard  to  our  de- 
cision  "  He  took  out  a  blue  pencil  and  scored  a 

paragraph  slowly. 

Two  men  came  in,  stepped  across  him,  and  made 
for  the  farther  corner.  A  young  fellow  swung  his 
golf  clubs  into  the  rack  and  sat  down  opposite.  The 
train  gave  a  gentle  lurch,  they  were  off.  William 
glanced  up  and  saw  the  hot,  bright  station  slipping 
away.  A  red-faced  girl  raced  along  by  the  carriages, 
there  was  something  strained  and  almost  desperate 
in  the  way  she  waved  and  called.  "Hysterical!" 
thought  William  dully.  Then  a  greasy,  black-faced 
workman  at  the  end  of  the  platform  grinned  at  the 

153 


Marriage  a  La  Mode 

passing    train.     And    William    thought,    "A    filthy 
life !"  and  went  back  to  his  papers. 

When  he  looked  up  again  there  were  fields,  and 
beasts  standing  for  shelter  under  the  dark  trees.. 
A  wide  river,  with  naked  children  splashing  in  the] 
shallows,  glided  into  sight  and  was  gone  again. 
The  sky  shone  pale,  and  one  bird  drifted  high  like  a 
dark  fleck  In  a  jewel. 

"We  have  examined  our  client's  correspondence 
files.  .  .  .,"  The  last  sentence  he  had  read  echoed 
in  his  mind.  "We  have  examined  .  .  ."  William 
hung  on  to  that  sentence,  but  It  was  no  good;  It 
snapped  in  the  middle,  and  the  fields,  the  sky,  the 
sailing  bird,  the  water,  all  said,  "Isabel."  The 
same  thing  happened  every  Saturday  afternoon. 
When  he  was  on  his  way  to  meet  Isabel  there  began 
those  countless  imaginary  meetings.  She  was  at  the 
station,  standing  just  a  little  apart  from  everybody 
else;  she  was  sitting  In  the  open  taxi  outside;  she 
was  at  the  garden  gate ;  walking  across  the  parched 
grass;  at  the  door,  or  just  inside  the  hall. 

And  her  clear,  light  voice  said,  "It's  William," 
or  "Hillo,  William!"  or  "So  William  has  come!" 
He  touched  her  cool  hand,  her  cool  cheek. 

The  exquisite  freshness  of  Isabel !  When  he  had 
been  a  little  boy.  It  was  his  delight  to  run  into  the 
garden  after  a  shower  of  rain  and  shake  the  rose- 
bush over  him.  Isabel  was  that  rose-bush,  petal- 
soft,  sparkling  and  cool.  And  he  was  still  that  little 
boy.     But  there  was  no  running  into  the  garden  now, 


Marriage  a  La  Mode 

no  laughing  and  shaking.  The  dull,  persistent 
gnawing  In  his  breast  started  again.  He  drew  up 
his  legs,  tossed  the  papers  aside,  and  shut  his 
eyes. 

"What  is  it,  Isabel?  What  is  it?"  he  said  ten- 
derly. They  were  in  their  bedroom  in  the  new 
house.  Isabel  sat  on  a  painted  stool  before  the 
dressing-table  that  was  strewn  with  little  black  and 
green  boxes. 

"What  is  what,  William?"  And  she  bent  for- 
ward, and  her  fine  light  hair  fell  over  her  cheeks. 

"Ah,  you  know !"  He  stood  in  the  middle  of  the 
strange  room  and  he  felt  a  stranger.  At  that  Isabel 
wheeled  round  quickly  and  faced  him. 

"Oh,  William!"  she  cried  imploringly,  and  she 
held  up  the  hair-brush:  "Please!  Please  don't  be 
so  dreadfully  stuffy  and — tragic.  You're  always 
saying  or  looking  or  hinting  that  I've  changed.  Just 
because  I've  got  to  know  really  congenial  people, 
and  go  about  more,  and  am  frightfully  keen  on — on 

everything,  you  behave  as  though  I'd "  Isabel 

tossed  back  her  hair  and  laughed —  "killed  our  love 
or  something.  It's  so  awfully  absurd" — she  bit 
her  lip — "and  it's  so  maddening,  William.  Even 
this  new  house  and  the  servants  you  grudge  me." 

"Isabel!" 

"Yes,  yes,  it's  true  in  a  way,"  said  Isabel  quickly. 
"You  think  they  are  another  bad  sign.  Oh,  I 
know  you  do.  I  feel  it,"  she  said  softly,  "every 
time  you  come  up  the  stairs.     But  we  couldn't  have 


Marriage  a  La  Mode 

gone  on  living  In  that  other  poky  little  hole,  William. 
Be  practical,  at  least!  Why,  there  wasn't  enough 
room  for  the  babies  even." 

No,  it  was  true.  Every  morning  when  he  came 
back  from  chambers  it  was  to  find  the  babies  with 
Isabel  In  the  back  drawing-room.  They  were  hav- 
ing rides  on  the  leopard  skin  thrown  over  the  sofa 
back,  or  they  were  playing  shops  with  Isabel's  desk 
for  a  counter,  or  Pad  was  sitting  on  the  hearthrug 
rowing  away  for  dear  life  with  a  little  brass  fire 
shovel,  while  Johnny  shot  at  pirates  with  the  tongs. 
Every  evening  they  each  had  a  pick-a-back  up  the 
narrow  stairs  to  their  fat  old  Nanny. 

Yes,  he  supposed  it  was  a  poky  little  house.  A 
little  white  house  with  blue  curtains  and  a  window- 
box  of  petunias.  William  met  their  friends  at  the 
door  with  "Seen  our  petunias?  Pretty  terrific  for 
London,  don't  you  think?" 

But  the  imbecile  thing,  the  absolutely  extraordin- 
ary thing  was  that  he  hadn't  the  slightest  idea  that 
Isabel  wasn't  as  happy  as  he.  God,  what  blindness ! 
He  hadn't  the  remotest  notion  in  those  days  that  she 
really  hated  that  inconvenient  little  house,  that  she 
thought  the  fat  Nanny  was  ruining  the  babies,  that 
she  was  desperately  lonely,  pining  for  new  people 
and  new  music  and  pictures  and  so  on.  If  they 
hadn't  gone  to  that  studio  party  at  Moira  Morri- 
son's— If  Moira  Morrison  hadn't  said  as  they  were 
leaving,  ^Tm  going  to  rescue  your  wife,  selfish  man. 
She's   like   an  exquisite   little   Titania" — if   Isabel 

156 


Marriage  a  La  Mode 

hadn't    gone    with    Moira    to    Paris — if — If  .  .  . 

The  train  stopped  at  another  station.  Betting- 
ford.  Good  heavens !  They'd  be  there  in  ten  min- 
utes. William  stuffed  the  papers  back  into  his 
pockets;  the  young  man  opposite  had  long  since  dis- 
appeared. Now  the  other  two  got  out.  The  late 
afternoon  sun  shone  on  women  in  cotton  frocks  and 
little  sunburnt,  barefoot  children.  It  blazed  on  a 
silky  yellow  flower  with  coarse  leaves  which 
sprawled  over  a  bank  of  rock.  The  air  ruffling 
through  the  window  smelled  of  the  sea.  Had 
Isabel  the  same  crowd  with  her  this  week-end,  won- 
dered William? 

And  he  remembered  the  holidays  they  used  to 
have,  the  four  of  them,  with  a  little  farm  girl.  Rose, 
to  look  after  the  babies.  Isabel  wore  a  jersey  and 
her  hair  in  a  plait;  she  looked  about  fourteen.  Lord! 
how  his  nose  used  to  peel!  And  the  amount  they 
ate,  and  the  amount  they  slept  In  that  immense 
feather  bed  with  their  feet  locked  together.  .  .  . 
William  couldn't  help  a  grim  smile  as  he  thought 
of  Isabel's  horror  If  she  knew  the  full  extent  of  his 
sentimentality. 

*'Hillo,  William !"  She  was  at  the  station  after 
all,  standing  just  as  he  had  imagined,  apart  from 
the  others,  and — ^William's  heart  leapt — she  was 
alone. 

''Hallo,  Isabel!"     William  stared.     He  thought 


Marriage  a  La  Mode 

•she  looked  so  beautiful  that  he  had  to  say  something, 
"You  look  very  cool/' 

"Do  I?"  said  Isabel.  "I  don't  feel  very  cool. 
Come  along,  your  horrid  old  train  is  late.  The 
taxi's  outside."  She  put  her  hand  lightly  on  his  arm 
as  they  passed  the  ticket  collector.  "We've  all  come 
to  meet  you,"  she  said.  "But  we've  left  Bobby 
Kane  at  the  sweet  shop,  to  be  called  for." 

"Oh !"  said  William.  It  was  all  he  could  say  for 
the  moment. 

There  in  the  glare  waited  the  taxi,  with  Bill  Hunt 
and  Dennis  Green  sprawling  on  one  side,  their  hats 
tilted  over  their  faces,  while  on  the  other,  Moira 
Morrison,  in  a  bonnet  like  a  huge  strawberry, 
jumped  up  and  down. 

"No  ice!  No  ice!  No  ice!"  she  shouted  gaily. 

And  Dennis  chimed  In  from  under  his  hat.  '^Only 
to  be  had  from  the  fishmonger's." 

And  Bill  Hunt,  emerging,  added,  "With  whole  fish 
in  it." 

"Oh,  what  a  bore !"  wailed  Isabel.  And  she  ex- 
plained to  William  how  they  had  been  chasing  round 
the  town  for  ice  while  she  waited  for  him.  "Simply 
everything  Is  running  down  the  steep  cllfts  into  the 
sea,  beginning  with  the  butter." 

"We  shall  have  to  anoint  ourselves  with  the 
butter,"  said  Dennis.  "May  thy  head,  William, 
lack  not  ointment." 

"Look  here,"  said  William,  "how  are  we  going 
to  sit?     I'd  better  get  up  by  the  driver." 

IS8 


Marriage  a  La  Mode 

"No,  Bobby  Kane's  by  the  driver,"  said  Isabel. 
*'YouVe  to  sit  between  Moira  and  me."  The  taxi 
started.  "What  have  you  got  in  those  mysterious 
parcels?" 

"De-cap-It-ated  heads!"  said  Bill  Hunt,  shudder- 
ing beneath  his  hat. 

"Oh,  fruit!"  Isabel  sounded  very  pleased.  "Wise 
William!  A  melon  and  a  pineapple.  How  too 
nice!" 

"No,  wait  a  bit,"  said  William,  smiling.  But  he 
really  was  anxious.  "I  brought  them  down  for  the 
kiddies." 

"Oh,  my  dear!"  Isabel  laughed,  and  slipped  her 
hand  through  his  arm.  "They'd  be  rolling  in 
agonies  if  they  were  to  eat  them.  No" — she  patted 
his  hand — "you  must  bring  them  something  next 
time.     I  refuse  to  part  with  my  pineapple." 

"Cruel  Isabel !  Do  let  me  smell  it !"  said  Moira. 
She  flung  her  arms  across  William  appealingly. 
"Oh!"  The  strawberry  bonnet  fell  forward:  she 
sounded  quite  faint. 

"A  Lady  in  Love  with  a  Pineapple,"  said  Dennis, 
as  the  taxi  drew  up  before  a  Httle  shop  with  a 
striped  blind.  Out  came  Bobby  Kane,  his  arms  full 
<)f  little  packets. 

"I  do  hope  they'll  be  good.  I've  chosen  them 
because  of  the  colours.  There  are  some  round 
things  which  really  look  too  divine.  And  just  look 
at  this  nougat,"  he  cried  ecstatically,  "just  look  at 
it !     It's  a  perfect  little  ballet." 

159 


Marriage  a  La  Mode 

But  at  that  moment  the  shopman  appeared.  "Oh, 
I  forgot.  They're  none  of  them  paid  for/'  said 
Bobby,  looking  frightened.  Isabel  gave  the  shop- 
man a  note,  and  Bobby  was  radiant  again.  "Hallo, 
William!  I'm  sitting  by  the  driver."  And  bare- 
headed, all  in  white,  with  his  sleeves  rolled  up  to  the 
shoulders,  he  leapt  into  his  place.  "Avanti!"  he 
cried.  .  .  . 

After  tea  the  others  went  off  to  bathe,  while 
William  stayed  and  made  his  peace  with  the  kiddies. 
But  Johnny  and  Paddy  were  asleep,  the  rose-red 
glow  had  paled,  bats  were  flying,  and  still  the  bathers 
had  not  returned.  As  William  wandered  down- 
stairs, the  maid  crossed  the  hall  carrying  a  lamp. 
He  followed  her  into  the  sitting-room.  It  was  a 
long  room,  coloured  yellow.  On  the  wall  opposite 
William  some  one  had  painted  a  young  man,  over 
life-size,  with  very  wobbly  legs,  offering  a  wide-eyed 
daisy  to  a  young  woman  who  had  one  very  short 
arm  and  one  very  long,  thin  one.  Over  the  chairs 
and  sofa  there  hung  strips  of  black  material,  covered 
with  big  splashes  like  broken  eggs,  and  everywhere 
one  looked  there  seemed  to  be  an  ash-tray  full  of 
cigarette  ends.  William  sat  down  in  one  of  the 
arm-chairs.  Nowadays,  when  one  felt  with  one 
hand  down  the  sides,  it  wasn't  to  come  upon  a  sheep 
with  three  legs  or  a  cow  that  had  lost  one  horn,  or 
a  very  fat  dove  out  of  the  Noah's  Ark.  One  fished 
up  yet  another  little  paper-covered  book  of  smudged- 
looking  poems.  .  .  .  He   thought  of  the  wad  of 

1 60 


Marriage  a  La  Mode 

papers  in  his  pocket,  but  he  was  too  hungry  and  tired 
to  read.  The  door  was  open ;  sounds  came  from  the 
kitchen.  The  servants  were  talking  as  if  they  were 
alone  in  the  house.  Suddenly  there  came  a  loud 
screech  of  laughter  and  an  equally  loud  *'Sh !"  They 
had  remembered  him.  William  got  up  and  went 
through  the  French  windows  into  the  garden,  and  as 
he  stood  there  in  the  shadow  he  heard  the  bathers 
coming  up  the  sandy  road;  their  voices  rang  through 
the  quiet. 

*'I  think  its  up  to  Moira  to  use  her  little  arts  and 
wiles." 

A  tragic  moan  from  Moira. 

"We  ought  to  have  a  gramophone  for  the  week- 
ends that  played  'The  Maid  of  the  Mountains.' '' 

"Oh  no!  Oh  no!"  cried  Isabel's  voice.  "That's 
not  fair  to  William.  Be  nice  to  him,  my  children! 
He's  only  staying  until  to-morrow  evening." 

"Leave  him  to  me,"  cried  Bobby  Kane.  "I'm 
awfully  good  at  looking  after  people." 

The  gate  swung  open  and  shut.  William  moved 
on  the  terrace;  they  had  seen  him.  "Hallo, 
William!"  And  Bobby  Kane,  flapping  his  towel, 
began  to  leap  and  pirouette  on  the  parched  lawn. 
"Pity  you  didn't  come,  William.  The  water  was 
divine.  And  we  all  went  to  a  little  pub  afterwards 
and  had  sloe  gin." 

The  others  had  reached  the  house.  "I  say, 
Isabel,"  called  Bobby,  "would  you  like  me  to  wear 
my  Nijinsky  dress  to-night?" 

i6l 


Marriage  a  La  Mode 

"No/'  said  Isabel,  "nobody's  going  to  dress. 
We're  all  starving.  William's  starving,  too. 
Come  along,  mes  amis,  let's  begin  with  sardines." 

"I've  found  the  sardines,"  said  Moira,  and  she 
ran  into  the  hall,  holding  a  box  high  in  the  air. 

"A  Lady  with  a  Box  of  Sardines,"  said  Dennis 
gravely. 

"Well,  William,  and  how's  London?"  asked  Bill 
Hunt,  drawing  the  cork  out  of  a  bottle  of  whisky. 

"Oh,  London's  not  much  changed,"  answered 
William. 

"Good  old  London,"  said  Bobby,  very  hearty, 
spearing  a  sardine. 

But  a  moment  later  William  was  forgotten. 
Moira  Morrison  began  wondering  what  colour  one's 
legs  really  were  under  water. 

"Mine  are  the  palest,  palest  mushroom  colour.'* 

Bill  and  Dennis  ate  enormously.,  And  Isabel 
filled  glasses,  and  changed  plates,  and  found  matches, 
smiling  blissfully.  At  one  moment  she  said,  "I  do 
wish.  Bill,  you'd  paint  it." 

"Paint  what?"  said  Bill  loudly,  stuffing  his  mouth 
with  bread. 

"Us,"  said  Isabel,  "round  the  table.  It  would 
be  so  fascinating  in  twenty  years'  time." 

Bill  screwed  up  his  eyes  and  chewed.  "Light's 
wrong,"  he  said  rudely,  "far  too  much  yellow";  and 
went  on  eating.  And  that  seemed  to  charm  Isabel, 
too. 

But  after  supper  they  were  all  so  tired  they  could 
162 


Marriage  a  La  Mode 

do  nothing  but  yawn  until  It  was  late  enough  to  go 
to  bed.  .  .  . 

It  was  not  until  William  was  waiting  for  his  taxi 
the  next  afternoon  that  he  found  himself  alone  with 
Isabel.  When  he  brought  his  suit-case  down  into 
the  hall,  Isabel  left  the  others  and  went  over  to  him. 
She  stooped  down  and  picked  up  the  suit-case. 
"What  a  weight!'*  she  said,  and  she  gave  a  little 
awkward  laugh.     'Xet  me  carry  it!     To  the  gate.'' 

"No,  why  should  you?"  said  William.  "Of 
course,  not.     Give  it  to  me." 

"Oh,  please  do  let  me,"  said  Isabel.  "I  want  to, 
really."  They  walked  together  silently.  William 
felt  there  was  nothing  to  say  now. 

"There,"  said  Isabel  triumphantly,  setting  the 
suit-case  down,  and  she  looked  anxiously  along  the 
sandy  road.  "I  hardly  seem  to  have  seen  you  this 
time,"  she  said  breathlessly.     "It's  so  short,  isn't 

It?     I  feel  you've  only  just  come.     Next  time " 

The  taxi  came  into  sight.  "I  hope  they  look  after 
you  properly  In  London.  I'm  so  sorry  the  babies 
have  been  out  all  day,  but  Miss  Neil  had  arranged 
It.  They'll  hate  missing  you.  Poor  William,  go- 
ing back  to  London."  The  taxi  turned.  "Good- 
bye!" She  gave  him  a  little  hurried  kiss;  she  was 
gone. 

Fields,  trees,  hedges  streamed  by.  They  shook 
through  the  empty,  blind-looking  little  town,  ground 
up  the  steep  pull  to  the  station. 

The  train  was  In.  William  made  straight  for 
a  first-class  smoker,  flung  back  Into  the  corner,  but 

T  r\^ 


Marriage  a  La  Mode 

this  time  he  let  the  papers  alone.  He  folded  his 
arms  against  the  dull,  persistent  gnawing,  and  began 
in  his  mind  to  write  a  letter  to  Isabel. 


The  post  was  late  as  usual.  They  sat  outside  the 
house  in  long  chairs  under  coloured  parasols.  Only 
Bobby  Kane  lay  on  the  turf  at  Isabel's  feet.  It  was 
dull,  stifling;  the  day  drooped  like  a  flag. 

*'Do  you  think  there  will  be  Mondays  in 
Heaven?"  asked  Bobby  childishly. 

And  Dennis  murmured,  ^'Heaven  will  be  one  long 
Monday." 

But  Isabel  couldn't  help  wondering  what  had 
happened  to  the  salmon  they  had  for  supper  last 
night.  She  had  meant  to  have  fish  mayonnaise  for 
lunch  and  now  .  .  . 

Moira  was  asleep.  Sleeping  was  her  latest  dis- 
covery. "It's  so  wonderful.  One  simply  shuts 
one's  eyes,  that's  all.     It's  so  delicious." 

When  the  old  ruddy  postman  came  beating  along 
the  sandy  road  on  his  tricycle  one  felt  the  handle- 
bars ought  to  have  been  oars. 

Bill  Hunt  put  down  his  book.  "Letters,"  he 
said  complacently,  and  they  all  waited.  But,  heart- 
less postman — O  malignant  world!  There  was 
only  one,  a  fat  one  for  Isabel.     Not  even  a  paper. 

"And  mine's  only  from  William,"  said  Isabel 
mournfully. 

"From  William— already  ?" 
164 


Marriage  a  La  Mode 

"He^s  sending  you  back  your  marriage  lines  as  a 
gentle  reminder." 

*'Does  everybody  have  marriage  lines?  I 
thought  they  were  only  for  servants." 

"Pages  and  pages!  Look  at  her!  A  Lady  read- 
ing a  Letter,"  said  Dennis. 

My  darling,  precious  Isabel,  Pages  and  pages 
there  were.  As  Isabel  read  on  her  feeling  of  aston- 
ishment changed  to  a  stifled  feeling.  What  on  earth 
had  Induced  William  .  .  .?  How  extraordinary  it 
was.  .  .  .  What  could  have  made  him  .  .  .  ?  She 
felt  confused,  more  and  more  excited,  even 
frightened.  It  was  just  like  William.  Was  It? 
It  was  absurd,  of  course,  it  must  be  absurd,  ridicu- 
lous. "Ha,  ha,  ha !  Oh  dear !"  What  was  she  to 
do?  Isabel  flung  back  in  her  chair  and  laughed  till 
she  couldn't  stop  laughing. 

"Do,  do  tell  us,"  said  the  others.  "You  must  tell 
us." 

"I'm  longing  to,"  gurgled  Isabel.  She  sat  up, 
gathered  the  letter,  and  waved  It  at  them.  "Gather 
round,"  she  said.  "Listen,  it's  too  marvellous.  A 
love-letter!" 

"A  love-letter!  But  how  divine!"  Darlings, 
precious  Isabel.  But  she  had  hardly  begun  before 
their  laughter  interrupted  her. 

"Go  on,  Isabel,  it's  perfect." 

"It's  the  most  marvellous  find." 

"Oh,  do  go  on,  Isabel!" 
165 


Marriage  a  La  Mode 

God  forbid,  my  darling,  that  I  should  he  a  drag 
on  your  happiness. 

"Oh!  oh!  oh!'' 

*'Sh!sh!shr 

And  Isabel  went  on.  When  she  reached  the  end 
they  were  hysterical:  Bobby  rolled  on  the  turf  and 
almost  sobbed. 

"You  must  let  me  have  It  just  as  it  Is,  entire,  for 
my  new  book,"  said  Dennis  firmly.  "I  shall  give  it 
a  whole  chapter." 

"Oh,  Isabel,"  moaned  Moira,  "that  wonderful 
bit  about  holding  you  in  his  arms!" 

"I  always  thought  those  letters  In  divorce  cases 
were  made  up.     But  they  pale  before  this." 

"Let  me  hold  it.  Let  me  read  it,  mine  own  self," 
said  Bobby  Kane., 

But,  to  their  surprise,  Isabel  crushed  the  letter  In 
her  hand.  She  was  laughing  no  longer.  She 
glanced  quickly  at  them  all;  she  looked  exhausted. 
"No,  not  just  now.     Not  just  now,"  she  stammered. 

And  before  they  could  recover  she  had  run  into 
the  house,  through  the  hall,  up  the  stairs  into  her 
bedroom.  Down  she  sat  on  the  side  of  the  bed. 
"How  vile,  odious,  abominable,  vulgar,"  muttered 
Isabel.  She  pressed  her  eyes  with  her  knuckles  and 
rocked  to  and  fro.  And  again  she  saw  them,  but 
not  four,  more  like  forty,  laughing,  sneering,  jeer- 
ing, stretching  out  their  hands  while  she  read  them 
William's  letter.  Oh,  what  a  loathsome  thing  to 
have  done.     How  could  she  have  done  it!     God 

i66 


Marriage  a  La  Mode 

forbid,  my  darling^  that  I  should  be  a  drag  on  your 
happiness.  William !  Isabel  pressed  her  face  into 
the  pillow.  But  she  felt  that  even  the  grave  bedroom 
knew  her  for  what  she  was,  shallow,  tinkling, 
vain.  ... 

Presently  from  the  garden  below  there  came 
voices. 

"Isabel,  we're  all  going  for  a  bathe.     Do  come  1" 

''Come,  thou  wife  of  William!'' 

''Call  her  once  before  you  go,  call  once  yet!" 

Isabel  sat  up.  Now  was  the  moment,  now  she 
must  decide.  Would  she  go  with  them,  or  stay  here 
and  write  to  William.  Which,  which  should  it  be? 
"I  must  make  up  my  mind."  Oh,  but  how  could 
there  be  any  question?  Of  course  she  would  stay 
here  and  write. 

"Titania!"  piped  Molra. 

"Isa-bel?" 

No,  it  was  too  difficult.  "riJ-^ril  go  with  them, 
and  write  to  William  later.  Some  other  time. 
Later.  Not  now.  But  I  shall  certainly  write," 
thought  Isabel  hurriedly. 

And,  laughing  in  the  new  way,  she  ran  down  the 
stairs. 


167 


THE  VOYAGE 

THE  Picton  boat  was  due  to  leave  at  half- 
past  eleven.  It  was  a  beautiful  night, 
mild,  starry,  only  when  they  got  out  of  the 
cab  and  started  to  walk  down  the  Old  Wharf  that 
jutted  out  Into  the  harbour,  a  faint  wind  blowing  off 
the  water  ruffled  under  Fenella's  hat,  and  she  put  up 
her  hand  to  keep  It  on.  It  was  dark  on  the  Old 
Wharf,  very  dark;  the  wool  sheds,  the  cattle  trucks, 
the  cranes  standing  up  so  high,  the  little  squat 
railway  engine,  all  seemed  carved  out  of  solIH 
darkness.  Here  and  there  on  a  rounded  wood- 
pile, that  was  like  the  stalk  of  a  huge  black  mush- 
room, there  hung  a  lantern,  but  it  seemed  afraid  to 
unfurl  its  timid,  quivering  light  in  all  that  blackness; 
it  burned  softly,  as  if  for  itself. 

Fenella's  father  pushed  on  with  quick,  nervous 
strides.  Beside  him  her  grandma  bustled  along  In 
her  crackling  black  ulster;  they  went  so  fast  that  she 
had  now  and  again  to  give  an  undignified  little  skip 
to  keep  up  with  them.  As  well  as  her  luggage 
strapped  into  a  neat  sausage,  Fenella  carried  clasped 
to  her  her  grandma's  umbrella,  and  the  handle, 
which  was  a  swan's  head,  kept  giving  her  shoulder  a 
sharp  little  peck  as  if  it  too  wanted  her  to  hurry.  .  .  . 
Men,  their  caps  pulled  down,  their  collars  turned 

l68 


The  Voyage 

up,  swung  by;  a  few  women  all  muffled  scurried 
along;  and  one  tiny  boy,  only  his  little  black  arms 
and  legs  showing  out  of  a  white  woolly  shawl,  was 
jerked  along  angrily  between  his  father  and  mother; 
he  looked  like  a  baby  fly  that  had  fallen  into  the 
cream. 

Then  suddenly,  so  suddenly  that  Fenella  and  her 
grandma  both  leapt,  there  sounded  from  behind  the 
largest  wool  shed,  that  had  a  trail  of  smoke  hang- 
ing over  it,  Mia-oo-oo-O-O! 

''First  whistle,"  said  her  father  briefly,  and  at  that 
moment  they  came  in  sight  of  the  Picton  boat.  Ly- 
ing beside  the  dark  wharf,  all  strung,  all  beaded  with 
round  golden  lights,  the  Picton  boat  looked  as  if  she 
was  more  ready  to  sail  among  stars  than  out  into  the 
cold  sea.  People  pressed  along  the  gangway. 
First  went  her  grandma,  then  her  father,  then  Fen- 
ella. There  was  a  high  step  down  on  to  the  deck, 
and  an  old  sailor  in  a  jersey  standing  by  gave  her  his 
dry,  hard  hand.  They  were  there ;  they  stepped  out 
of  the  way  of  the  hurrying  people,  and  standing 
under  a  little  iron  stairway  that  led  to  the  upper 
deck  they  began  to  say  good-bye. 

"There,  mother,  there^s  your  luggage!"  said 
Fenella's  father,  giving  grandma  another  strapped- 
up  sausage. 

"Thank  you,  Frank." 

"And  you've  got  your  cabin  tickets  safe?" 

"Yes,  dear." 

"And  your  other  tickets?" 
169 


The  Voyage 

Grandma  felt  for  them  Inside  her  glove  and 
showed  him  the  tips. 

^'That's  right." 

He  sounded  stern,  but  Fenella,  eagerly  watching 
him,  saw  that  he  looked  tired  and  sad.  Mia-oo-oo- 
0-0!  The  second  whistle  blared  just  above  their 
heads,  and  a  voice  like  a  cry  shouted,  *'Any  more 
for  the  gangway?" 

"You'll  give  my  love  to  father,"  Fenella  saw  her 
father's  lips  say.  And  her  grandma,  very  agitated, 
answered,  "Of  course  I  will,  dear.  Go  now. 
You'll  be  left.     Go  now,  Frank.     Go  now." 

"It's  all  right,  mother.  I've  got  another  three 
minutes."  To  her  surprise  Fenella  saw  her  father 
take  off  his  hat.  He  clasped  grandma  in  his  arms 
and  pressed  her  to  him.  "God  bless  you,  mother !" 
she  heard  him  say. 

And  grandma  put  her  hand,  with  the  black  thread 
glove  that  was  worn  through  on  her  ring  finger, 
against  his  cheek,  and  she  sobbed,  "God  bless  you, 
my  own  brave  son  I" 

This  was  so  awful  that  Fenella  quickly  turned  her 
back  on  them,  swallowed  once,  twice,  and  frowned 
terribly  at  a  little  green  star  on  a  mast  head.  But 
she  had  to  turn  round  again;  her  father  was  going. 

"Good-bye,  Fenella.  Be  a  good  girl."  His  cold, 
wet  moustache  brushed  her  cheek.  But  Fenella 
caught  hold  of  the  lapels  of  his  coat. 

"How  long  am  I  going  to  stay?"  she  whispered 
anxiously.     He  wouldn't  look  at  her.     He  shook 

170 


The  Voyage 

her  off  gently,  and  gently  said,  "We'll  see  about  that. 
Here!  Where's  your  hand?"  He  pressed  some- 
thing into  her  palm.  "Here's  a  shilling  in  case  you 
should  need  it." 

A  shilling!  She  must  be  going  away  for  ever! 
"Father!"  cried  Fenella.  But  he  was  gone.  He 
was  the  last  off  the  ship.  The  sailors  put  their 
shoulders  to  the  gangway.  A  huge  coil  of  dark 
rope  went  flying  through  the  air  and  fell  "thump" 
on  the  wharf.  A  bell  rang;  a  whistle  shrilled. 
Silently  the  dark  wharf  began  to  slip,  to  slide,  to 
edge  away  from  them.  Now  there  was  a  rush  of 
water  between.  Fenella  strained  to  see  with  all  her 
might.  "Was  that  father  turning  round?" — or 
waving? — or  standing  alone? — or  walking  off  by 
himself?  The  strip  of  water  grew  broader,  darker. 
Now  the  Picton  boat  began  to  swing  round  steady, 
pointing  out  to  sea.  It  was  no  good  looking  any 
longer.  There  was  nothing  to  be  seen  but  a  few 
lights,  the  face  of  the  town  clock  hanging  in  the  air, 
and  more  lights,  little  patches  of  them,  on  the  dark 
hills. 

The  freshening  wind  tugged  at  Fenella's  skirts; 
she  went  back  to  her  grandma.  To  her  relief 
grandma  seemed  no  longer  sad.  She  had  put  the 
two  sausages  of  luggage  one  on  top  of  the  other, 
and  she  was  sitting  on  them,  her  hands  folded,  her 
head  a  little  on  one  side.  There  was  an  intent, 
bright  look  on  her  face.  Then  Fenella  saw  that  her 
lips  were  moving  and  guessed  that  she  was  praying. 

171 


The  Voyage 

But  the  old  woman  gave  her  a  bright  nod  as  if  to 
say  the  prayer  was  nearly  over.  She  unclasped  her 
hands,  sighed,  clasped  them  again,  bent  forward, 
and  at  last  gave  herself  a  soft  shake. 

'*And  now,  child,"  she  said,  fingering  the  bow  of 
her  bonnet-strings,  "I  think  we  ought  to  see  about 
our  cabins.  Keep  close  to  me,  and  mind  you  don't 
slip." 

*Tes,  grandma!" 

"And  be  careful  the  umbrellas  aren't  caught  in 
the  stair  rail.  I  saw  a  beautiful  umbrella  broken 
in  half  like  that  on  my  way  over." 

''Yes,  grandma." 

Dark  figures  of  men  lounged  against  the  rails. 
In  the  glow  of  their  pipes  a  nose  shone  out,  or  the 
peak  of  a  cap,  or  a  pair  of  surprised-looking  eye- 
brows. Fenella  glanced  up.  High  in  the  air,  a  lit- 
tle figure,  his  hands  thrust  in  his  short  jacket  pockets, 
stood  staring  out  to  sea.  The  ship  rocked  ever  so 
little,  and  she  thought  the  stars  rocked  too.  And 
now  a  pale  steward  in  a  linen  coat,  holding  a  tray 
high  In  the  palm  of  his  hand,  stepped  out  of  a 
lighted  doorway  and  skimmed  past  them.  They 
went  through  that  doorway.  Carefully  over  the 
high  brass-bound  step  on  to  the  rubber  mat  and  then 
down  such  a  terribly  steep  flight  of  stair's  that 
grandma  had  to  put  both  feet  on  each  step,  and  Fen- 
ella clutched  the  clammy  brass  rail  and  forgot  all 
about  the  swan-necked  umbrella. 

At  the  bottom  grandma  stopped;  Fenella  was 
172 


The  Voyage 

rather  afraid  she  was  going  to  pray  again.  But  no, 
it  was  only  to  get  out  the  cabin  tickets.  They  were 
in  the  saloon.  It  was  glaring  bright  and  stifling; 
the  air  smelled  of  paint  and  burnt  chop-bones  and 
indiarubber.,  Fenella  wished  her  grandma  would 
go  on,  but  the  old  woman  was  not  to  be  hurried. 
An  immense  basket  of  ham  sandwiches  caught  her 
eye.  She  went  up  to  them  and  touched  the  top  one 
delicately  with  her  finger. 

"How  much  are  the  sandwiches?"  she  asked. 

**Tuppence!"  bawled  a  rude  steward,  slamming 
down  a  knife  and  fork. 

Grandma  could  hardly  believe  it. 

* 'Twopence  eachf'^  she  asked. 

^'That's  right,"  said  the  steward,  and  he  winked 
at  his  companion. 

Grandma  made  a  small,  astonished  face.  Then 
she  whispered  primly  to  Fenella.  "What  wicked- 
ness !"  And  they  sailed  out  at  the  further  door  and 
along  a  passage  that  had  cabins  on  either  side. 
Such  a  very  nice  stewardess  came  to  meet  them. 
She  was  dressed  all  in  blue,  and  her  collar  and  cuffs 
were  fastened  with  large  brass  buttons.  She 
seemed  to  know  grandma  well. 

"Well,  Mrs.  Crane,"  said  she,  unlocking  their 
washstand.  "WeVe  got  you  back  again.  It's  not 
often  you  give  yourself  a  cabin." 

"No,"  said  grandma.  "But  this  time  my  dear 
son's  thoughtfulness " 

"I  hope "  began  the  stewardess.     Then  she 

173 


The  Voyage 

turned  round  and  took  a  long  mournful  look  at 
grandma's  blackness  and  at  Fenella's  black  coat  and 
skirt,  black  blouse,  and  hat  with  a  crape  rose. 

Grandma  nodded.     ^'It  was  God's  will,"  said  she. 

The  stewardess  shut  her  lips  and,  taking  a  deep 
breath,  she  seemed  to  expand. 

"What  I  always  say  is,"  she  said,  as  though  it 
was  her  own  discovery,  "sooner  or  later  each  of  us 
has  to  go,  and  that's  a  certingty."  She  paused. 
"Now,  can  I  bring  you  anything,  Mrs.  Crane?  A 
cup  of  tea?  I  know  it's  no  good  offering  you  a 
little  something  to  keep  the  cold  out." 

Grandma  shook  her  head.  "Nothing,  thank  you. 
We've  got  a  few  wine  biscuits,  and  Fenella  has  a 
very  nice  banana." 

"Then  I'll  give  you  a  look  later  on,"  said  the 
stewardess,  and  she  went  out,  shutting  the  door. 

What  a  very  small  cabin  it  was !  It  was  like  be- 
ing shut  up  in  a  box  with  grandma.  The  dark 
round  eye  above  the  washstand  gleamed  at  them 
dully.  Fenella  felt  shy.  She  stood  against  the 
door,  still  clasping  her  luggage  and  the  umbrella. 
Were  they  going  to  get  undressed  in  here?  Al- 
ready her  grandma  had  taken  off  her  bonnet,  and, 
rolling  up  the  strings,  she  fixed  each  with  a  pin  to 
the  lining  before  she  hung  the  bonnet  up.  Her 
white  hair  shone  like  silk;  the  little  bun  at  the  back 
was  covered  with  a  black  net.  Fenella  hardly  ever 
saw  her  grandma  with  her  head  uncovered;  she 
looked  strange. 


The  Voyage 

"I  shall  put  on  the  woollen  fascinator  your  dear 
mother  crocheted  for  me,"  said  grandma,  and,  un- 
strapping the  sausage,  she  took  it  out  and  wound  it 
round  her  head;  the  fringe  of  grey  bobbles  danced 
at  her  eyebrows  as  she  smiled  tenderly  and  mourn- 
fully at  Fenella.  Then  she  undid  her  bodice,  and 
something  under  that,  and  something  else  under- 
neath that.  Then  there  seemed  a  short,  sharp 
tussle,  and  grandma  flushed  faintly.  Snip !  Snap ! 
She  had  undone  her  stays.  She  breathed  a  sigh  of 
relief,  and  sitting  on  the  plush  couch,  she  slowly 
and  carefully  pulled  off  her  elastic-sided  boots  and 
stood  them  side  by  side. 

By  the  time  Fenella  had  taken  off  her  coat  and 
skirt  and  put  on  her  flannel  dressing-gown  grandma 
was  quite  ready. 

"Must  I  take  off  my  boots,  grandma?  TheyVe 
lace." 

Grandma  gave  them  a  moment's  deep  considera- 
tion. "You'd  feel  a  great  deal  more  comfortable 
if  you  did,  child,"  said  she.  She  kissed  Fenella. 
"Don't  forget  to  say  your  prayers.  Our  dear  Lord 
is  with  us  when  we  are  at  sea  even  more  than  when 
we  are  on  dry  land.  And  because  I  am  an  experi- 
enced traveller,"  said  grandma  briskly,  "I  shall  take 
the  upper  berth." 

"But,  grandma,  however  will  you  get  up 
there?" 

Three  little  spider-like  steps  were  all  Fenella  saw. 
The  old  woman  gave  a  small  silent  laugh  before 


The  Voyage 

she  mounted  them  nimbly,  and  she  peered  over  the 
high  bunk  at  the  astonished  Fenella. 

"You  didn't  think  your  grandma  could  do  that, 
did  you?"  said  she.  And  as  she  sank  back  Fenella 
heard  her  light  laugh  again.  ^ 

The  hard  square  of  brown  soap  would  not  lather, 
and  the  water  in  the  bottle  was  like  a  kind  of  blue 
jelly.  How  hard  it  was,  too,  to  turn  down  those 
stiff  sheets;  you  simply  had  to  tear  your  way  in.  If 
everything  had  been  different,  Fenella  might  have 
got  the  giggles.  ...  At  last  she  was  inside,  and 
while  she  lay  there  panting,  there  sounded  from 
above  a  long,  soft  whispering,  as  though  some  one 
was  gently,  gently  rustling  among  tissue  paper  to 
find  something.  It  was  grandma  saying  her 
prayers.  .  .  . 

A  long  time  passed.  Then  the  stewardess  came 
in;  she  trod  softly  and  leaned  her  hand  on  grandma's 
bunk. 

*'WeVe  just  entering  the  Straits,"  she  said. 

"Oh!" 

"It's  a  fine  night,  but  we're  rather  empty.  We 
may  pitch  a  little." 

And  indeed  at  that  moment  the  PIcton  boat  rose 
and  rose  and  hung  in  the  air  just  long  enough  to 
give  a  shiver  before  she  swung  down  again,  and 
there  was  the  sound  of  heavy  water  slapping 
against  her  sides.  Fenella  remembered  she  had 
left  that  swan-necked  umbrella  standing  up  on  the 

176 


The  Voyage 

little  couch.  If  it  fell  over,  would  It  break?  But 
grandma  remembered  too,  at  the  same  time. 

"I  wonder  if  you'd  mind,  stewardess,  laying  down 
my  umbrella,"  she  whispered. 

"Not  at  all,  Mrs.  Crane."  And  the  stewardess, 
coming  back  to  grandma,  breathed,  "Your  little 
granddaughter's  in  such  a  beautiful  sleep." 

"God  be  praised  for  that!"  said  grandma. 

"Poor  little  motherless  mite!"  said  the  stew- 
ardess. And  grandma  was  still  telling  the  stew- 
ardess all  about  what  happened  when  Fenella  fell 
asleep. 

But  she  hadn't  been  asleep  long  enough  to  dream 
before  she  woke  up  again  to  see  something  waving 
in  the  air  above  her  head.  What  was  it?  What 
could  it  be?  It  was  a  small  grey  foot.  Now 
another  joined  it.  They  seemed  to  be  feeling  about 
for  something;  there  came  a  sigh. 

"I'm  awake,  grandma,"  said  Fenella. 

"Oh,  dear,  am  I  near  the  ladder?"  asked 
grandma.     "I  thought  it  was  this  end." 

"No,  grandma,  it's  the  other.  I'll  put  your  foot 
on  it.     Are  we  there?"  asked  Fenella. 

"In  the  harbour,"  said  grandma.  "We  must  get 
up,  child.  You'd  better  have  a  biscuit  to  steady 
vourself  before  you  move." 

but  Fenella  had  hopped  out  of  her  bunk.  The 
lamp  was  still  burning,  but  night  was  over,  and  it 
was  cold.     Peering  through   that  round  eye,   she 

177 


The  Voyage 

could  see  far  off  some  rocks.  Now  they  were  scat- 
tered over  with  foam;  now  a  gull  flipped  by;  and 
now  there  came  a  long  piece  of  real  land. 

*'It's  land,  grandma,"  said  Fenella,  wonderingly, 
as  though  they  had  been  at  sea  for  weeks  together. 
She  hugged  herself;  she  stood  on  one  leg  and  rubbed 
it  with  the  toes  of  the  other  foot;  she  was  trembling. 
Oh,  it  had  all  been  so  sad  lately.  Was  it  going  to 
change?  But  all  her  grandma  said  was,  "Make 
haste,  child.  I  should  leave  your  nice  banana  for 
the  stewardess  as  you  haven't  eaten  it."  And 
Fenella  put  on  her  black  clothes  again,  and  a  button 
sprang  off  one  of  her  gloves  and  rolled  to  where  she 
couldn't  reach  it.     They  went  up  on  deck. 

But  if  it  had  been  cold  in  the  cabin,  on  deck  it  was 
like  ice.  The  sun  was  not  up  yet,  but  the  stars  were 
dim,  and  the  cold  pale  sky  was  the  same  colour  as 
the  cold  pale  sea.  On  the  land  a  white  mist  rose 
and  fell.  Now  they  could  see  quite  plainly  dark 
bush.  Even  the  shapes  of  the  umbrella  ferns 
showed,  and  those  strange  silvery  withered  trees 
that  are  like  skeletons.  .  .  .  Now  they  could  see 
the  landing-stage  and  some  little  houses,  pale  too, 
clustered  together,  like  shells  on  the  lid  of  a  box. 
The  other  passengers  tramped  up  and  down,  but 
more  slowly  than  they  had  the  night  before,  and  they 
looked  gloomy. 

And  now  the  landing-stage  came  out  to  meet  them. 
Slowly  it  swam  towards  the  Picton  boat,  and  a  man 
holding  a  coil  of  rope,  and  a  cart  with  a  small  droop- 

178 


The  Voyage 

Ing  horse  and  another  man  sitting  on  the  step,  came 
too. 

"It's  Mr.  Penreddy,  Fenella,  come  for  us/'  said 
grandma.  She  sounded  pleased.  Her  white  waxen 
cheeks  were  blue  with  cold,  her  chin  trembled,  and 
she  had  to  keep  wiping  her  eyes  and  her  little  pink 
nose. 

"YouVe  got  my " 

"Yes,  grandma.''     Fenella  showed  It  to  her. 

The  rope  came  flying  through  the  air,  and 
"smack"  it  fell  on  to  the  deck.  The  gangway  was 
lowered.  Again  Fenella  followed  her  grandma  on 
to  the  wharf  over  to  the  little  cart,  and  a  moment 
later  they  were  bowling  away.  The  hooves  of  the 
little  horse  drummed  over  the  wooden  piles,  then 
sank  softly  into  the  sandy  road.  Not  a  soul  was 
to  be  seen;  there  was  not  even  a  feather  of  smoke. 
The  mist  rose  and  fell,  and  the  sea  still  sounded 
asleep  as  slowly  it  turned  on  the  beach. 

"I  seen  Mr.  Crane  yestiddy,"  said  Mr.  Penreddy. 
"He  looked  himself  then.  Missus  knocked  him  up 
a  batch  of  scones  last  week." 

And  now  the  little  horse  pulled  up  before  one  of 
the  shell-like  houses.  They  got  down.  Fenella  put 
her  hand  on  the  gate,  and  the  big,  trembling  dew- 
drops  soaked  through  her  glove-tips.  Up  a  little 
path  of  round  white  pebbles  they  went,  with 
drenched  sleeping  flowers  on  either  side.  Grand- 
ma's delicate  white  picotees  were  so  heavy  with  dew 
that  they  were  fallen,  but  their  sweet  smell  was  part 

179 


The  Voyage 

of  the  cold  morning.  The  blinds  were  down  in  the 
little  house;  they  mounted  the  steps  on  to  the  ver- 
anda. A  pair  of  old  bluchers  was  on  one  side  of 
the  door,  and  a  large  red  watering-can  on  the  other. 

"Tut!  tut!  Your  grandpa,"  said  grandma.  She 
turned  the  handle.  Not  a  sound.  She  called, 
**Walter!"  And  immediately  a  deep  voice  that 
sounded  half  stifled  called  back,  "Is  that  you, 
Mary?" 

"Wait,  dear,"  said  grandma.  "Go  in  there." 
She  pushed  Fenella  gently  into  a  small  dusky  sitting- 
room. 

On  the  table  a  white  cat,  that  had  been  folded 
up  like  a  camel,  rose,  stretched  itself,  yawned,  and 
then  sprang  on  to  the  tips  of  its  toes.  Fenella 
buried  one  cold  little  hand  in  the  white,  warm  fur, 
and  smiled  timidly  while  she  stroked  and  listened  to 
grandma's  gentle  voice  and  the  rolling  tones  of 
grandpa. 

A  door  creaked.  "Come  in,  dear."  The  old 
woman  beckoned,  Fenella  followed.  There,  lying 
to  one  side  of  an  immense  bed,  lay  grandpa.  Just 
his  head  with  a  white  tuft,  and  his  rosy  face  and  long 
silver  beard  showed  over  the  quilt.  He  was  like  a 
very  old  wide-awake  bird. 

"Well,  my  girl!"  said  grandpa.  "Give  us  a 
kiss!"  Fenella  kissed  him.  "Ugh!"  said  grandpa. 
"Her  little  nose  is  as  cold  as  a  button.  What's  that 
she's  holding?     Her  grandma's  umbrella?" 

Fenella  smiled  again,  and  crooked  the  swan  neck 
1 80 


The  Voyage 

over  the  bed-rail.     Above  the  bed  there  was  a  big 
text  in  a  deep-black  frame: — 

Lost!     One  Golden  Hour 

Set  with  Sixty  Diamond  Minutes, 

No  Reward  Is  Offered 

For  It  Is  Gone  For  Ever! 

"Yer  grandma  painted  that,"  said  grandpa.  And 
he  ruffled  his  white  tuft  and  looked  at  Fenella  so 
merrily  she  almost  thought  he  winked  at  her. 


i8i 


MISS  BRILL 

ALTHOUGH  it  was  so  brilliantly  fine— the 
blue  sky  powdered  with  gold  and  great 
spots  of  light  like  white  wine  splashed  over 
the  Jardins  Publiques — Miss  Brill  was  glad  that  she 
had  decided  on  her  fur.  The  air  was  motionless, 
but  when  you  opened  your  mouth  there  was  just  a 
faint  chill,  like  a  chill  from  a  glass  of  iced  water 
before  you  sip,  and  now  and  again  a  leaf  came 
drifting — from  nowhere,  from  the  sky.  Miss  Brill 
put  up  her  hand  and  touched  her  fur.  Dear  little 
thing !  It  was  nice  to  feel  it  again.  She  had  taken 
it  out  of  its  box  that  afternoon,  shaken  out  the  moth- 
powder,  given  it  a  good  brush,  and  rubbed  the  life 
back  into  the  dim  little  eyes.  "What  has  been  hap- 
pening to  me?"  said  the  sad  little  eyes.  Oh,  how 
sweet  it  was  to  see  them  snap  at  her  again  from  the 
red  eiderdown!  .  .  .  But  the  nose,  which  was  of 
some  black  composition,  wasn't  at  all  firm.  It  must 
have  had  a  knock,  somehow.  Never  mind — a  little 
dab  of  black  sealing-wax  when  the  time  came — when 
it  was  absolutely  necessary.  .  .  .  Little  rogue! 
Yes,  she  really  felt  like  that  about  it.  Little  rogue 
biting  its  tail  just  by  her  left  ear.  She  could  have 
taken  it  off  and  laid  it  on  her  lap  and  stroked  it. 
She  felt  a  tingling  in  her  hands  and  arms,  but  that 

182 


Miss  R^ill 

came  from  walking,  she  supposed.  And  when  she 
breathed,  something  light  and  sad — no,  not  sad, 
exactly — something  gentle  seemed  to  move  in  her 
bosom. 

There  were  a  number  of  people  out  this  after- 
noon, far  more  than  last  Sunday.  And  the  band 
sounded  louder  and  gayer.  That  was  because  the 
Season  had  begun.  For  although  the  band  played 
all  the  year  round  on  Sundays,  out  of  season  it  was 
never  the  same.  It  was  like  some  one  playing  with 
only  the  family  to  listen;  It  didn't  care  how  it  played 
if  there  weren't  any  strangers  present.  Wasn't  the 
conductor  wearing  a  new  coat,  too?  She  was  sure 
it  was  new.  He  scraped  with  his  foot  and  flapped 
his  arms  like  a  rooster  about  to  crow,  and  the  bands- 
men sitting  in  the  green  rotunda  blew  out  their 
cheeks  and  glared  at  the  music.  Now  there  came 
a  little  ^'flutey"  bit — very  pretty! — a  little  chain  of 
bright  drops.  She  was  sure  it  would  be  repeated. 
It  was;  she  lifted  her  head  and  smiled. 

Only  two  people  shared  her  ^'special"  seat:  a  fine 
old  man  in  a  velvet  coat,  his  hands  clasped  over  a 
huge  carved  walking-stick,  and  a  big  old  woman, 
sitting  upright,  with  a  roll  of  knitting  on  her  em- 
broidered apron.  They  did  not  speak.  This  was 
disappointing,  for  Miss  Brill  always  looked  for- 
ward to  the  conversation.  She  had  become  really 
quite  expert,  she  thought,  at  listening  as  though  she 
didn't  listen,  at  sitting  in  other  people's  lives  just 
for  a  minute  while  they  talked  round  her. 

183 


Miss  Brill 

She  glanced,  sideways,  at  the  old  couple.  Per- 
haps they  would  go  soon.  Last  Sunday,  too,  hadn't 
been  as  interesting  as  usual.  An  Englishman  and 
his  wife,  he  wearing  a  dreadful  Panama  hat  and  she 
button  boots.  And  she'd  gone  on  the  whole  time 
about  how  she  ought  to  wear  spectacles;  she  knew 
she  needed  them;  -but  that  it  was  no  good  getting 
any;  they'd  be  sure  to  break  and  they'd  never  keep 
on.  And  he'd  been  so  patient.  He'd  suggested 
everything — gold  rims,  the  kind  that  curved  round 
your  ears,  little  pads  Inside  the  bridge.  No,  noth- 
ing would  please  her.  "They'll  always  be  sliding 
down  my  nose !"  Miss  Brill  had  wanted  to  shake 
her. 

The  old  people  sat  on  the  bench,  still  as  statues. 
Never  mind,  there  was  always  the  crowd  to  watch. 
To  and  fro,  in  front  of  the  flower-beds  and  the  band 
rotunda,  the  couples  and  groups  paraded,  stopped 
to  talk,  to  greet,  to  buy  a  handful  of  flowers  from 
the  old  beggar  who  had  his  tray  fixed  to  the  rail- 
ings. Little  children  ran  among  them,  swooping  and 
laughing;  little  boys  with  big  white  silk  bows  under 
their  chins,  little  girls,  little  French  dolls,  dressed 
up  in  velvet  and  lace.  And  sometimes  a  tiny  stag- 
gerer came  suddenly  rocking  into  the  open  from  un- 
der the  trees,  stopped,  stared,  as  suddenly  sat  down 
**flop,"  until  its  small  high-stepping  mother,  like  a 
young  hen,  rushed  scolding  to  its  rescue.  Other 
people  sat  on  the  benches  and  green  chairs,  but  they 
were  nearly  always  the  same,  Sunday  after  Sunday, 

184 


Miss  Brill 

and — Miss  Brill  had  often  noticed — there  was 
something  funny  about  nearly  all  of  them.  They 
were  odd,  silent,  nearly  all  old,  and  from  the  way 
they  stared  they  looked  as  though  they'd  just  come 
from  dark  little  rooms  or  even — even  cupboards! 

Behind  the  rotunda  the  slender  trees  with  yellow 
leaves  down  drooping,  and  through  them  just  a  line 
of  sea,  and  beyond  the  blue  sky  with  gold-veined 
clouds. 

Tum-tum-tum  tiddle-um!  tiddle-um!  tum  tlddle}'- 
um  tum  ta !  blew  the  band. 

Two  young  girls  in  red  came  by  and  two  young 
soldiers  In  blue  met  them,  and  they  laughed  and 
paired  and  went  off  arm-in-arm.  Two  peasant 
women  with  funny  straw  hats  passed,  gravely,  lead- 
ing beautiful  smoke-coloured  donkeys.  A  cold,  pale 
nun  hurried  by.  A  beautiful  woman  came  along 
and  dropped  her  bunch  of  violets,  and  a  little  boy 
ran  after  to  hand  them  to  her,  and  she  took  them 
and  threw  them  away  as  if  they'd  been  poisoned. 
Dear  me!  Miss  Brill  didn't  know  whether  to  ad- 
mire that  or  not !  And  now  an  ermine  toque  and  a 
gentleman  In  grey  met  just  In  front  of  her.  He  was 
tall,  stiff,  dignified,  and  she  was  wearing  the  ermine 
toque  she'd  bought  when  her  hair  was  yellow.i  Now 
everything,  her  hair,  her  face,  even  her  eyes,  was 
the  same  colour  as  the  shabby  ermine,  and  her  hand, 
in  its  cleaned  glove,  lifted  to  dab  her  lips,  was  a  tiny 
yellowish  paw.  Oh,  she  was  so  pleased  to  see  him 
— delighted!     She  rather  thought  they  were  going 

185 


Miss  Brill 

to  meet  that  afternoon.  She  described  where  she'd 
been — everywhere,  here,  there,  along  by  the  sea. 
The  day  was  so  charming — didn't  he  agree?  And 
wouldn't  he,  perhaps?  .  .  .  But  he  shook  his  head, 
lighted  a  cigarette,  slowly  breathed  a  great  deep 
puff  into  her  face,  and,  even  while  she  was  still  talk- 
ing and  laughing,  flicked  the  match  away  and  walked 
on.  The  ermine  toque  was  alone;  she  smiled  more 
brightly  than  ever.  But  even  the  band  seemed  to 
know  what  she  was  feeling  and  played  more  softly, 
played  tenderly,  and  the  drum  beat,  "The  Brute! 
The  Brute!"  over  and  over.  What  would  she  do? 
What  was  going  to  happen  now?  But  as  Miss 
Brill  wondered,  the  ermine  toque  turned,  raised  her 
hand  as  though  she'd  seen  some  one  else,  much 
nicer,  just  over  there,  and  pattered  away.  And  the 
band  changed  again  and  played  more  quickly,  more 
gaily  than  ever,  and  the  old  couple  on  Miss  Brill's 
seat  got  up  and  marched  away,  and  such  a  funny 
old  man  with  long  whiskers  hobbled  along  in  time 
to  the  music  and  was  nearly  knocked  over  by  four 
girls  walking  abreast. 

Oh,  how  fascinating  it  was!  How  she  enjoyed 
it!  How  she  loved  sitting  here,  watching  it  all! 
It  was  like  a  play.  It  was  exactly  like  a  play. 
Who  could  believe  the  sky  at  the  back  wasn't 
painted?  But  it  wasn't  till  a  little  brown  dog  trot- 
ted on  solemn  and  then  slowly  trotted  off,  like  a 
little  "theatre"  dog,  a  little  dog  that  had  been 
drugged,  that  Miss  Brill  discovered  what  it  was 

1 86 


Miss  Brill 

fhat  made  It  so  exciting.  They  were  all  on  the 
stage.  They  weren't  only  the  audience,  not  only 
looking  on ;  they  were  acting.  Even  she  had  a  part 
and  came  every  Sunday.  No  doubt  somebody 
would  have  noticed  if  she  hadn't  been  there;  she 
was  part  of  the  performance  after  all.  How 
strange  she'd  never  thought  of  It  like  that  before! 
And  yet  it  explained  why  she  made  such  a  point  of 
starting  from  home  at  just  the  same  time  each 
week — so  as  not  to  be  late  for  the  performance — 
and  It  also  explained  why  she  had  quite  a  queer,  shy 
feeling  at  telling  her  English  pupils  how  she  spent 
her  Sunday  afternoons.  No  wonder!  Miss  Brill 
nearly  laughed  out  loud.  She  was  on  the  stage. 
She  thought  of  the  old  invalid  gentleman  to  whom 
she  read  the  newspaper  four  afternoons  a  week 
while  he  slept  in  the  garden.  She  had  got  quite 
used  to  the  frail  head  on  the  cotton  pillow,  the  hol- 
lowed eyes,  the  open  mouth  and  the  high  pinched 
nose.  If  he'd  been  dead  she  mightn't  have  noticed 
for  weeks;  she  wouldn't  have  minded.  But  sud- 
denly he  knew  he  was  having  the  paper  read  to  him 
by  an  actress!  "An  actress!"  The  old  head 
lifted;  two  points  of  light  quivered  in  the  old  eyes. 
*'An  actress — are  ye?"  And  Miss  Brill  smoothed 
the  newspaper  as  though  It  were  the  manuscript  of 
her  part  and  said  gently:  "Yes,  I  have  been  an  ac- 
tress for  a  long  time." 

The  band  had  been  having  a  rest.     Now  they 
started  again.     And  what  they  played  was  warm, 

187 


Miss  Brill 

sunny,  yet  there  was  just  a  faint  chill — a  something,. 
what  was  it? — not  sadness — no,  not  sadness — a 
something  that  made  you  want  to  sing.  The  tune 
lifted,  lifted,  the  light  shone;  and  it  seemed  to  Miss 
Brill  that  in  another  moment  all  of  them,  all  the 
whole  company,  would  begin  singing.  The  young 
ones,  the  laughing  ones  who  were  moving  together, 
they  would  begin,  and  the  men's  voices,  very  resolute 
and  brave,  would  join  them.  And  then  she  too,  she 
too,  and  the  others  on  the  benches — they  would 
come  in  with  a  kind  of  accompaniment — something 
low,  that  scarcely  rose  or  fell,  something  so  beau- 
tiful— moving.  .  .  .  And  Miss  Brill's  eyes  filled 
with  tears  and  she  looked  smiling  at  all  the  other 
members  of  the  company.  Yes,  we  understand,  we 
understand,  she  thought — though  what  they  under- 
stood she  didn't  know. 

Just  at  that  moment  a  boy  and  a  girl  came  and  sat 
down  where  the  old  couple  had  been.  They  were 
beautifully  dressed;  they  were  in  love.  The  hero 
and  heroine,  of  course,  just  arrived  from  his 
father's  yacht.  And  still  soundlessly  singing,  still 
with  that  trembling  smile.  Miss  Brill  prepared  to 
listen. 

"No,  not  now,"  said  the  girl.  "Not  here,  I 
can't." 

"But  why?  Because  of  that  stupid  old  thing  at 
the  end  there?"  asked  the  boy.  "Why  does  she 
come  here  at  all — who  wants  her?  Why  doesn't 
she  keep  her  silly  old  mug  at  home?" 

i88 


Miss  Brill 

*'It's  her  fu-fur  which  Is  so  funny,"  giggled  the 
girl.     **It's  exactly  like  a  fried  whiting." 

"Ah,  be  off  with  you !"  said  the  boy  In  an  angry 
whisper.     Then:  "Tell  me,  ma  petite  chere " 

"No,  not  here,"  said  the  girl.     "Not  yetr 


On  her  way  home  she  usually  bought  a  slice  of 
honey-cake  at  the  baker^s.  It  was  her  Sunday  treat. 
Sometimes  there  was  an  almond  in  her  slice,  some- 
times not.  It  made  a  great  difference.  If  there 
was  an  almond  It  was  like  carrying  home  a  tiny  pres- 
ent— a  surprise — something  that  might  very  well 
not  have  been  there.  She  hurried  on  the  almond 
Sundays  and  struck  the  match  for  the  kettle  in  quite 
a  dashing  way. 

But  to-day  she  passed  the  baker's  by,  climbed  the 
stairs,  went  into  the  little  dark  room — her  room 
like  a  cupboard — and  sat  down  on  the  red  eider- 
down. She  sat  there  for  a  long  time.  The  box 
that  the  fur  came  out  of  was  on  the  bed.  She  un- 
clasped the  necklet  quickly;  quickly,  without  look- 
ing, laid  it  inside.  But  when  she  put  the  lid  on  she 
thought  she  heard  something  crying. 


189 


HER  FIRST  BALL 

EXACTLY  when  the  ball  began  Leila  would 
have  found  it  hard  to  say.  Perhaps  her 
first  real  partner  was  the  cab.  It  did  not 
matter  that  she  shared  the  cab  with  the  Sher- 
idan girls  and  their  brother.  She  sat  back  in  her 
own  little  corner  of  it,  and  the  bolster  on  which 
her  hand  rested  felt  like  the  sleeve  of  an  unknown 
young  man*s  dress  suit;  and  away  they  bowled,  past 
waltzing  lam{>posts  and  houses  and  fences  and 
trees. 

"Have  you  really  never  been  to  a  ball  before, 

Leila?     But,  my  child,  how  too  weird '*  cried 

the  Sheridan  girls. 

*'Our  nearest  neighbour  was  fifteen  miles,''  said 
Leila  softly,  gently  opening  and  shutting  her  fan. 

Oh,  dear,  how  hard  it  was  to  be  indifferent  like 
the  others!  She  tried  not  to  smile  too  much;  she 
tried  not  to  care.  But  every  single  thing  was  so  new 
and  exciting  .  .  .  Meg's  tuberoses,  Jose's  long  loop 
of  amber,  Laura's  little  dark  head,  pushing  above 
her  white  fur  like  a  flower  through  snow.  She 
would  remember  for  ever.  It  even  gave  her  a  pang 
to  see  her  cousin  Laurie  throw  away  the  wisps  of 
tissue  paper  he  pulled  from  the  fastenings  of  his 
new  gloves.     She  would  like  to  have  kept  those 

190 


Her  First  Ball 

wisps  as  a  keepsake,  as  a  remembrance.  Laurie 
leaned  forward  and  put  his  hand  on  Laura's  knee. 

"Look  here,  darling,"  he  said.  "The  third  and 
the  ninth  as  usual.     Twig?" 

Oh,  how  marvellous  to  have  a  brother!  In  her 
excitement  Leila  felt  that  if  there  had  been  time, 
if  it  hadn't  been  impossible,  she  couldn't  have  helped 
crying  because  she  was  an  only  child,  and  no  brother 
had  ever  said  "Twig?"  to  her;  no  sister  would  ever 
say,  as  Meg  said  to  Jose  that  moment,  "I've  never 
known  your  hair  go  up  more  successfully  than  it 
has  to-night!" 

But,  of  course,  there  was  no  time.  They  were  at 
the  drill  hall  already;  there  were  cabs  in  front  of 
them  and  cabs  behind.  The  road  was  bright  on 
either  side  with  moving  fan-like  lights,  and  on  the 
pavement  gay  couples  seemed  to  float  through  the 
air;  little  satin  shoes  chased  each  other  like  Birds. 

"Hold  on  to  me,  Leila;  you'll  get  lost,"  said 
Laura. 

"Come  on,  girls,  let's  make  a  dash  for  it,'*  said 
Laurie. 

Leila  put  two  fingers  on  Laura's  pink  velvet 
cloak,  and  they  were  somehow  lifted  past  the  big 
golden  lantern,  carried  along  the  passage,  and 
pushed  into  the  little  room  marked  "Ladies." 
Here  the  crowd  was  so  great  there  was  hardly 
space  to  take  off  their  things ;  the  noise  was  deafen- 
ing.. Two  benches  on  either  side  were  stacked  high 
w^ith  wraps.     Two  old  women  in  white  aprons  ran 

191 


Her  First  Ball 

up  and  down  tossing  fresh  armfuls.  And  every- 
body was  pressing  forward  trying  to  get  at  the  little 
dressing-table  and  mirror  at  the  far  end. 

A  great  quivering  jet  of  gas  lighted  the  ladies' 
room.  It  couldn't  wait;  it  was  dancing  already. 
When  the  door  opened  again  and  there  came  a 
burst  of  tuning  from  the  drill  hall,  it  leaped  almost 
to  the  celling. 

Dark  girls,  fair  girls  were  patting  their  hair, 
tying  ribbons  again,  tucking  handkerchiefs  down 
the  fronts  of  their  bodices,  smoothing  marble-white 
gloves.  And  because  they  were  all  laughing  it 
seemed  to  Leila  that  they  were  all  lovely. 

"Aren't  there  any  invisible  hair-pins?"  cried  a 
voice.  "How  most  extraordinary!  I  can't  see  a 
single  invisible  hair-pin." 

"Powder  my  back,  there's  a  darling,"  cried  some 
one  else. 

"But  I  must  have  a  needle  and  cotton.  I've  torn 
simply  miles  and  miles  of  the  frill,"  wailed  a  third. 

Then,  "Pass  them  along,  pass  them  along!" 
The  straw  basket  of  programmes  was  tossed  from 
arm  to  arm.  Darling  little  plnk-and-silver  pro- 
grammes, with  pink  pencils  and  fluffy  tassels. 
Leila's  fingers  shook  as  she  took  one  out  of  the  bas- 
ket. She  wanted  to  ask  some  one,  "Am  I  meant  to 
have  one  too?"  but  she  had  just  time  to  read: 
"Waltz  3.  Two,  Two  in  a  Canoe.  Polka  4.  Mak- 
ing the  Feathers  Fly,*  when  Meg  cried,  "Ready, 
Leila?"  and  they  pressed  their  way  through  the 

192 


Her  First  Ball 

crush  In  the  passage  towards  the  big  double  doors 
of  the  drill  hall. 

Dancing  had  not  begun  yet,  but  the  band  had 
stopped  tuning,  and  the  noise  was  so  great  it  seemed 
that  when  it  did  begin  to  play  it  would  never  be 
heard.  Leila,  pressing  close  to  Meg,  looking  over 
Meg's  shoulder,  felt  that  even  the  little  quivering 
coloured  flags  strung  across  the  ceiling  were  talking. 
She  quite  forgot  to  be  shy;  she  forgot  how  in  the 
middle  of  dressing  she  had  sat  down  on  the  bed  with 
one  shoe  off  and  one  shoe  on  and  begged  her  mother 
to  ring  up  her  cousins  and  say  she  couldn't  go  after 
all.  And  the  rush  of  longing  she  had  had  to  be  sit- 
ting on  the  veranda  of  their  forsaken  up-country 
home,  listening  to  the  baby  owls  crying  "More  pork" 
in  the  moonlight,  was  changed  to  a  rush  of  joy  so 
sweet  that  it  was  hard  to  bear  alone.  She  clutched 
her  fan,  and,  gazing  at  the  gleaming,  golden  floor, 
the  azaleas,  the  lanterns,  the  stage  at  one  end  with 
its  red  carpet  and  gilt  chairs  and  the  band  In  a 
corner,  she  thought  breathlessly,  "How  heavenly; 
how  simply  heavenly!" 

All  the  girls  stood  grouped  together  at  one  side 
of  the  doors,  the  men  at  the  other,  and  the  chaper- 
ones  in  dark  dresses,  smiling  rather  foolishly, 
walked  with  little  careful  steps  over  the  polished 
floor  towards  the  stage. 

"This  is  my  little  country  cousin  Leila.  Be  nice 
to  her.  Find  her  partners;  she's  under  my  wing,'* 
said  Meg,  going  up  to  one  girl  after  another. 

193 


Her  First  Ball 

Strange  faces  smiled  at  Leila — sweetly,  vaguely. 
Strange  voices  answered,  "Of  course,  my  dear.*' 
But  Leila  felt  the  girls  didn't  really  see  her.  They 
were  looking  towards  the  men.  Why  didn't  the 
men  begin?  What  were  they  waiting  for?  There 
they  stood,  smoothing  their  gloves,  patting  their 
glossy  hair  and  smiling  among  themselves.  Then, 
quite  suddenly,  as  if  they  had  only  just  made  up  their 
minds  that  that  was  what  they  had  to  do,  the  men 
came  gliding  over  the  parquet.  There  was  a  joyful 
flutter  among  the  girls.  A  tall,  fair  man  flew  up  to 
Meg,  seized  her  programme,  scribbled  something; 
Meg  passed  him  on  to  Leila.  "May  I  have  the 
pleasure?"  He  ducked  and  smiled.  There  came 
a  dark  man  wearing  an  eyeglass,  then  cousin  Laurie 
v/ith  a  friend,  and  Laura  with  a  little  freckled  fellow 
whose  tie  was  crooked.  Then  quite  an  old  man — 
fat,  with  a  big  bald  patch  on  his  head — took  her 
programme  and  murmured,  "Let  me  see,  let  me 
see !"  And  he  was  a  long  time  comparing  his  pro- 
gramme, which  looked  black  with  names,  with  hers. 
It  seemed  to  give  him  so  much  trouble  that  Leila  was 
ashamed.  "Oh,  please  don't  bother,"  she  saiti 
eagerly.  But  Instead  of  replying  the  fat  man  wrote 
something,  glanced  at  her  again.  "Do  I  remember 
this  bright  little  face?"  he  said  softly.  "Is  It 
known  to  me  of  yore?"  At  that  moment  the  band 
began  playing;  the  fat  man  disappeared.  He  was 
tossed  away  on  a  great  wave  of  music  that  came 
flying  over  the  gleaming  floor,  breaking  the  grouos 

194 


Her  First  Ball 

up  Into  couples,  scattering  them,  sending  them  spin- 
ning. .  .  . 

Leila  had  learned  to  dance  at  boarding  school. 
Every  Saturday  afternoon  the  boarders  were  hur- 
ried off  to  a  little  corrugated  iron  mission  hall  where 
Miss  Eccles  (of  London)  held  her  ''select"  classes. 
But  the  difference  between  that  dusty-smelling  hall 
— with  calico  texts  on  the  walls,  the  poor  terrified 
little  woman  In  a  brown  velvet  toque  with  rabbit's 
ears  thumping  the  cold  piano,  Miss  Eccles  poking 
the  girls'  feet  with  her  long  white  wand — and  this 
was  so  tremendous  that  Leila  was  sure  If  her  partner 
didn't  come  and  she  had  to  listen  to  that  marvellous 
music  and  to  watch  the  others  sliding,  gliding  over 
the  golden  floor,  she  would  die  at  least,  or  faint, 
or  lift  her  arms  and  fly  out  of  one  of  those  dark 
windows  that  showed  the  stars. 

*'Ours,  I  think "     Some  one  bowed,  smiled, 

and  offered  her  his  arm;  she  hadn't  to  die  after  all. 
Some  one's  hand  pressed  her  waist,  and  she  floated 
away  like  a  flower  that  is  tossed  Into  a  pool. 

"Quite  a  good  floor.  Isn't  It?"  drawled  a  faint 
voice  close  to  her  ear. 

"I  think  It's  most  beautifully  slippery,"  said  Leila. 

''Pardon!"  The  faint  voice  sounded  surprised. 
Leila  said  it  again.  And  there  was  a  tiny  pause 
before  the  voice  echoed,  "Oh,  quite!"  and  she  was 
swung  round  again. 

He  steered  so  beautifully.  That  was  the  great 
difference  between  dancing  with  girls  and  men,  Leila 


Her  First  Ball 

decided.  Girls  banged  into  each  other,  and  stamped 
on  each  other^s  feet;  the  girl  who  was  gentleman 
always  clutched  you  so. 

The  azaleas  were  separate  flowers  no  longer; 
they  were  pink  and  white  flags  streaming  by. 

"Were  you  at  the  Bells'  last  week?"  the  voice 
came  again.  It  sounded  tired.  Leila  wondered 
whether  she  ought  to  ask  him  if  he  would  like  to 
stop. 

"No,  this  Is  my  first  dance,"  said  she. 

Her  partner  gave  a  little  gasping  laugh.  "Oh, 
I  say,"  he  protested. 

"Yes,  it  is  really  the  first  dance  Fve  ever  been  to." 
Leila  was  most  fervent.  It  was  such  a  relief  to  be 
able  to  tell  somebody.  "You  see,  IVe  lived  in  the 
country  all  my  life  up  until  now.  .  .   ." 

At  that  moment  the  music  stopped,  and  they  went 
to  sit  on  two  chairs  against  the  wall.  Leila  tucked 
her  pink  satin  feet  under  and  fanned  herself,  while 
she  blissfully  watched  the  othct  couples  passing  and 
disappearing  through  the  swing  doors. 

"Enjoying  yourself,  Leila?"  asked  Jose,  nodding 
her  golden  head. 

Laura  passed  and  gave  her  the  faintest  little 
wink;  it  made  Leila  wonder  for  a  moment  whether 
she  was  quite  grown  up  after  all.  Certainly  her 
partner  did  not  say  very  much.  He  coughed, 
tucked  his  handkerchief  away,  pulled  down  his  waist- 
coat, took  a  minute  thread  ofif  his  sleeve.  But  it 
didn't    matter.     Almost     immediately     the    band 

196 


Her  First  Ball 

started,  and  her  second  partner  seemed  to  spring 
from  the  ceiling. 

"Floor's  not  bad/'  said  the  new  voice.  Did  one 
always  begin  with  the  floor?  And  then,  "Were 
you  at  the  Neaves'  on  Tuesday?"  And  again  Leila 
explained.  Perhaps  it  was  a  little  strange  that  her 
partners  were  not  more  interested.  For  it  was 
thrilling.  Her  first  ball!  She  was  only  at  the 
beginning  of  everything.  It  seemed  to  her  that  she 
had  never  known  what  the  night  was  like  before. 
Up  till  now  it  had  been  dark,  silent,  beautiful  very 
often — oh,  yes — ^but  mournful  somehow.  Solemn. 
And  now  it  would  never  be  like  that  again — it  had 
opened  dazzling  bright. 

**Care  for  an  ice?"  said  her  partner.  And  they 
went  through  the  swing  doors,  down  the  passage, 
to  the  supper  room.  Her  cheeks  burned,  she  was 
fearfully  thirsty.  How  sweet  the  ices  looked  on 
little  glass  plates,  and  how  cold  the  frosted  spoon 
was,  iced  too!  And  when  they  came  back  to  the 
hall  there  was  the  fat  man  waiting  for  her  by  the 
door.  It  gave  her  quite  a  shock  again  to  see  how 
old  he  was ;  he  ought  to  have  been  on  the  stage  with 
the  fathers  and  mothers.  And  when  Leila  com- 
pared him  with  her  other  partners  he  looked  shabby. 
His  waistcoat  was  creased,  there  was  a  button  off 
his  glove,  his  coat  looked  as  if  it  was  dusty  with 
French  chalk. 

"Come  along,  little  lady,"  said  the  fat  man.  He 
scarcely  troubled  to  clasp  her,  and  they  moved  away 

197 


Her  First  Ball 

so  gently,  It  was  more  like  walking  than  dancing. 
But  he  said  not  a  word  about  the  floor.  "Your  first 
dance,  isn't  it?"  he  murmured. 

*'How  did  you  know?" 

*'Ah,"  said  the  fat  man,  "that's  what  it  is  to  be 
old!"  He  wheezed  faintly  as  he  steered  her  past 
an  awkward  couple.  "You  see,  Fve  been  doing  this 
kind  of  thing  for  the  last  thirty  years." 

"Thirty  years?"  cried  Leila.  Twelve  years  be- 
fore she  was  born  I 

"It  hardly  bears  thinking  about,  does  it?"  said 
the  fat  man  gloomily.  Leila  looked  at  his  bald 
head,  and  she  felt  quite  sorry  for  him. 

"I  think  It's  marvellous  to  be  still  going  on,"  she 
said  kindly. 

"Kind  little  lady,"  said  the  fat  man,  and  he 
pressed  her  a  little  closer,  and  hummed  a  bar  of  the 
waltz.  "Of  course,"  he  said,  "you  can't  hope  to 
last  anything  like  as  long  as  that.  No-o,"  said  the 
fat  man,  "long  before  that  you'll  be  sitting  up  there 
on  the  stage,  looking  on,  in  your  nice  black  velvet. 
And  these  pretty  arms  will  have  turned  into  little 
short  fat  ones,  and  you'll  beat  time  with  such  a  differ- 
ent kind  of  fan — a  black  bony  one."  The  fat  man 
seemed  to  shudder.  "And  you'll  smile  away  like  the 
poor  old  dears  up  there,  and  point  to  your  daughter, 
and  tell  the  elderly  lady  next  to  you  how  some 
dreadful  man  tried  to  kiss  her  at  the  club  ball.  And 
your  heart  will  ache,  ache" — the  fat  man  squeezed 
her  closer  still,  as  if  he  really  was  sorry  for  that 

198 


Her  First  Ball 

poor  heart — "because  no  one  wants  to  kiss  you  now. 
And  you'll  say  how  unpleasant  these  polished  floors 
are  to  walk  on,  how  dangerous  they  are.  Eh, 
Mademoiselle  Twinkletoes?"  said  the  fat  man 
softly. 

Leila  gave  a  light  little  laugh,  but  she  did  not 
feel  like  laughing.  Was  it — could  it  all  be  true? 
It  sounded  terribly  true.  Was  this  first  ball  only  the 
beginning  of  her  last  ball  after  all?  At  that  the 
music  seemed  to  change;  it  sounded  sad,  sad;  It  rose 
upon  a  great  sigh.  Oh,  how  quickly  things 
changed!  Why  didn't  happiness  last  for  ever? 
For  ever  wasn't  a  bit  too  long. 

"I  want  to  stop,"  she  said  in  a  breathless  voice. 
The  fat  man  led  her  to  the  door. 

"No,"  she  said,  "I  won't  go  outside.  I  won't 
sit  down.  I'll  just  stand  here,  thank  you."  She 
leaned  against  the  wall,  tapping  with  her  foot,  pull- 
ing up  her  gloves  and  trying  to  smile.  But  deep  in- 
side her  a  little  girl  threw  her  pinafore  over  her 
head  and  sobbed.     Why  had  he  spoiled  It  all? 

"I  say,  you  know,"  said  the  fat  man,  "you  mustn't 
take  me  seriously,  little  lady." 

"As  if  I  should!"  said  Leila,  tossing  her  small 
dark  head  and  sucking  her  underlip.   .  .  . 

Again  the  couples  paraded.  The  swing  doors 
opened  and  shut.  Now  new  music  was  given  out 
by  the  bandmaster.  But  Leila  didn't  want  to  dance 
any  more.  She  wanted  to  be  home,  or  sitting  on 
the  veranda  listening  to  those  baby  owls.     When 

J  99 


Her  First  Ball 

she  looked  through  the  dark  windows  at  the  stars, 
they  had  long  beams  like  wings.  .  .  . 

But  presently  a  soft,  melting,  ravishing  tune 
began,  and  a  young  man  with  curly  hair  bowed  be- 
fore her.  She  would  have  to  dance,  out  of  polite- 
ness, until  she  could  find  Meg.  Very  stiffly  she 
walked  into  the  middle;  very  haughtily  she  put  her 
hand  on  his  sleeve.  But  in  one  minute,  in  one  turn, 
her  feet  glided,  glided.  The  lights,  the  azaleas, 
the  dresses,  the  pink  faces,  the  velvet  chairs,  all  be- 
came one  beautiful  flying  wheel.  And  when  her 
next  partner  bumped  her  into  the  fat  man  and  he 
said,  "Par^ow/'  she  smiled  at  him  more  radiantly 
than  ever.     She  didn't  even  recognize  him  again. 


200 


THE  SINGING  LESSON 

WITH  despair — cold,  sharp  despair — 
buried  deep  in  her  heart  like  a  wicked 
knife,  Miss  Meadows,  in  cap  and  gown 
and  carrying  a  little  baton,  trod  the  cold  corridors 
that  led  to  the  music  hall.  Girls  of  all  ages,  rosy 
from  the  air,  and  bubbling  over  with  that  gleeful 
excitement  that  comes  from  running  to  school  on  a 
fine  autumn  morning,  hurried,  skipped,  fluttered  by; 
from  the  hollow  class-rooms  came  a  quick  drum- 
ming of  voices;  a  bell  rang;  a  voice  like  a  bird  cried, 
"Muriel."  And  then  there  came  from  the  stair- 
case a  tremendous  knock-knock-knocking.  Some 
one  had  dropped  her  dumbbells. 

The  Science  Mistress  stopped  Miss  Meadows. 

"Good  mor-ning,"  she  cried,  in  her  sweet,  affected 
drawl.     "Isn't  it  cold?     It  might  be  win-ter.*' 

Miss  Meadows,  hugging  the  knife,  stared  in 
hatred  at  the  Science  Mistress.  Everything  about 
her  was  sweet,  pale,  like  honey.  You  would  not 
have  been  surprised  to  see  a  bee  caught  in  the  tangles 
of  that  yellow  hair. 

"It  is  rather  sharp,"  said  Miss  Meadows,  grimly. 

The  other  smiled  her  sugary  smile. 

"You  look  fro-zen,"  said  she.  Her  blue  eyes 
20I 


The  Singing  Lesson 

opened  wide;  there  came  a  mocking  light  in  them. 
(Had  she  noticed  anything?) 

"Oh,  not  quite  as  bad  as  that/'  said  Miss 
Meadows,  aAd  she  gave  the  Science  Mistress,  in  ex- 
change for  her  smile,  a  quick  grimace  and  passed 
on.  .  .  , 

Forms  Four,  Five,  and  Six  were  assembled  in  the 
music  hall.  The  noise  was  deafening.  On  the 
platform,  by  the  piano,  stood  Mary  Beazley,  Miss 
Meadows'  favourite,  who  played  accompaniments. 
She  was  turning  the  music  stool.  When  she  saw 
Miss  Meadows  she  gave  a  loud,  warning  "Sh-sh! 
girls!"  and  Miss  Meadows,  her  hands  thrust  in 
her  sleeves,  the  baton  under  her  arm,  strode  down 
the  centre  aisle,  mounted  the  steps,  turned  sharply, 
seized  the  brass  music  stand,  planted  it  in  front  of 
her,  and  gave  two  sharp  taps  with  her  baton  for 
silence. 

"Silence,  please!  Immediately!"  and,  looking  at 
nobody,  her  glance  swept  over  that  sea  of  coloured 
flannel  blouses,  with  bobbing  pink  faces  and  hands, 
quivering  butterfly  hair-bows,  and  music-books  out- 
spread. She  knew  perfectly  well  what  they  were 
thinking.  "Meady  is  in  a  wax."  Well,  let  them 
think  it!  Her  eyelids  quivered;  she  tossed  her 
head,  defying  them.  What  could  the  thoughts  of 
those  creatures  matter  to  some  one  who  stood  there 
bleeding  to  death,  pierced  to  the  heart,  to  the  heart, 
by  such  a  letter 

...  "I  feel  more  and  more  strongly  that  our 
202 


The  Singing  Lesson 

marriage  would  be  a  mistake.  Not  that  I  do  not 
love  you.  I  love  you  as  much  as  It  Is  possible  for 
me  to  love  any  woman,  but,  truth  to  tell,  I  have 
come  to  the  conclusion  that  I  am  not  a  marrying 
man,  and  the  Idea  of  settling  down  fills  me  with  noth- 
ing    but "     and     the     word     "disgust"     was 

scratched  out  lightly  and  ''regret"  written  over  the 
top. 

Basil  I  Miss  Meadows  stalked  over  to  the  piano. 
And  Mary  Beazley,  who  was  waiting  for  this  mo- 
ment, bent  forward;  her  curls  fell  over  her  cheeks 
while  she  breathed,  "Good  morning,  Miss 
Meadows,"  and  she  motioned  towards  rather  than 
handed  to  her  mistress  a  beautiful  yellow  chrysan- 
themum. This  little  ritual  of  the  flower  had  been 
gone  through  for  ages  and  ages,  quite  a  term  and  a 
half.  It  was  as  much  part  of  the  lesson  as  opening 
the  piano.  But  this  morning.  Instead  of  taking  it 
up,  instead  of  tucking  it  into  her  belt  while  she 
leant  over  Mary  and  said,  "Thank  you,  Mary. 
How  very  nice!  Turn  to  page  thirty-two,"  what 
was  Mary's  horror  when  Miss  Meadows  totally  ig- 
nored the  chrysanthemum,  made  no  reply  to  her 
greeting,  but  said  in  a  voice  of  ice,  "Page  fourteen, 
please,  and  mark  the  accents  well." 

Staggering  moment!  Mary  blushed  until  the 
tears  stood  in  her  eyes,  but  Miss  Meadows  was 
gone  back  to  the  music  stand;  her  voice  rang 
through  the  music  hall. 

"Page  fourteen.  We  will  begin  with  page  four- 
203 


The  Singing  Lesson 

teen.  ^A  Lament.'  Now,  girls,  you  ought  to 
know  it  by  this  time.  We  shall  take  it  all  together ; 
not  in  parts,  all  together.  And  without  expression. 
Sing  it,  though,  quite  simply,  beating  time  with  the 
left  hand.'* 

She  raised  the  baton;  she  tapped  the  music  stand 
twice.  Down  came  Mary  on  the  opening  chord; 
down  came  all  those  left  hands,  beating  the  air,  and 
in  chimed  those  young,  mournful  voices : — 

Fast!    Ah,  too  Fast  Fade  the  Ro-o-ses  of  Pleasure; 

Soon  Autumn  yields  unto  Wi-i-nter  Drear. 

Fleetly!    Ah,  Fleetly  Mu-u-sics  Gay  Measure 

Passes  away  from  the  Listening  Ear, 

Good  Heavens,  what  could  be  more  tragic  than 
that  lament !  Every  note  was  a  sigh,  a  sob,  a  groan 
of  awful  mournfulness.  Miss  Meadows  lifted  her 
arms  in  the  wide  gown  and  began  conducting  with 
both  hands.  **...!  feel  more  and  more 
strongly  that  our  marriage  would  be  a  mis- 
take. .  .  ."  she  beat.  And  the  voices  cried: 
Fleetly!  Ah,  Fleetly,  What  could  have  possessed 
him  to  write  such  a  letter!  What  could  have  led 
up  to  it !  It  came  out  of  nothing.  His  last  letter 
had  been  all  about  a  fumed-oak  bookcase  he  had 
bought  for  "our"  books,  and  a  "natty  little  hall- 
stand"  he  had  seen,  "a  very  neat  affair  with  a  carved 
owl  on  a  bracket,  holding  three  hat-brushes  in  its 
claws."     How  she  had  smiled  at  that!     So  like  a 

204 


The  Singing  Lesson 

man  to  think  one  needed  three  hat-brushes !  From 
the  Listening  Ear,  sang  the  voices. 

"Once  again,"  said  Miss  Meadows.  "But  this 
time  in  parts.  Still  without  expression."  Fast/ 
Ah,  too  Fast,  With  the  gloom  of  the  contraltos 
added,  one  could  scarcely  help  shuddering.  Fade 
the  Roses  of  Pleasure.  Last  time  he  had  come  to 
see  her,  Basil  had  worn  a  rose  in  his  buttonhole. 
How  handsome  he  had  looked  in  that  bright  blue 
suit,  with  that  dark  red  rose !  And  he  knew  it,  too. 
He  couldn't  help  knowing  it.  First  he  stroked  his 
hair,  then  his  moustache;  his  teeth  gleamed  when 
he  smiled. 

"The  headmaster's  wife  keeps  on  asking  me  to 
dinner.  It's  a  perfect  nuisance.  I  never  get  an 
evening  to  myself  in  that  place." 

"But  can't  you  refuse?" 

"Oh,  well,  it  doesn't  do  for  a  man  in  my  position 
to  be  unpopular." 

Mtisic^s  Gay  Measure,  wailed  the  voices.  The 
willow  trees,  outside  the  high,  narrow  windows, 
waved  in  the  wind.  They  had  lost  half  their  leaves. 
The  tiny  ones  that  clung  wriggled  like  fishes  caught 
on  a  line.  "...  I  am  not  a  marrying  man.  .  .  ." 
The  voices  were  silent;  the  piano  waited. 

"Quite  good,"  said  Miss  Meadows,  but  still  in 
such  a  strange,  stony  tone  that  the  younger  girls  be- 
gan to  feel  positively  frightened.  "But  now  that 
we  know  it,  we  shall  take  it  with  expression.     As 

205 


The  Singing  Lesson 

much  expression  as  you  can  put  into  It.  Think  of 
the  words,  girls.  Use  your  Imaginations.  Fast! 
Ah,  too  Fast,"  cried  Miss  Meadows.  'That  ought 
to  break  out — a  loud,  strong  forte — a  lament.  And 
then  in  the  second  line,  JVinter  Drear,  make  that 
Drear  sound  as  if  a  cold  wind  were  blowing  through 
it.  Dre-earf*  said  she  so  awfully  that  Mary  Beaz- 
ley,  on  the  music  stool,  wriggled  her  spine.  "The 
third  line  should  be  one  crescendo.  Fleetly!  Ah, 
Fleetly  Music^s  Gay  Measure.  Breaking  on  the 
first  word  of  the  last  line,  Passes.  And  then  on  the 
word.  Away,  you  must  begin  to  die  .  .  .  to  fade 
.  .  .  until  The  Listening  Ear  Is  nothing  more 
than  a  faint  whisper.  .  .  .  You  can  slow  down  as 
much  as  you  like  almost  on  the  last  line.  Now, 
please.^' 

Again  the  two  light  taps;  she  lifted  her  arms 
again.  Fast!  Ah,  too  Fast.  ".  .  .  and  the  Idea 
of  settling  down  fills  me  with  nothing  but  dis- 
gust  ''     Disgust    was    what    he    had    written. 

That  was  as  good  as  to  say  their  engagement  was 
definitely  broken  off.  Broken  off!  Their  engage- 
ment 1  People  had  been  surprised  enough  that  she 
had  got  engaged.  The  Science  Mistress  would  not 
believe  it  at  first.  But  nobody  had  been  as  surprised 
as  she.  She  was  thirty.  Basil  was  twenty-five.  It 
had  been  a  miracle,  simply  a  miracle,  to  hear  him 
say,  as  they  walked  home  from  church  that  very 
dark  night,  "You  know,  somehow  or  other,  I've  got 
fond  of  you."     And  he  had  taken  hold  of  the  end 

206 


The  Singing  Lesson 

of  her  ostrich  feather  boa.  Passes  away  from  the 
Listening  Ear. 

"Repeat!  Repeat!"  said  Miss  Meadows.  "More 
expesslon,  girls!     Once  more!" 

Fast/  Ah,  too  Fast.  The  older  girls  were  crim- 
son; some  of  the  younger  ones  began  to  cry.  Big 
spots  of  rain  blew  against  the  windows,  and  one 
could  hear  the  willows  whispering,  ".  .  .  not  that 
I  do  not  love  you.  .  .  ." 

"But,  my  darling,  if  you  love  me,"  thought  Miss 
Meadows,  "I  don't  mind  how  much  it  is.  Love  me 
as  little  as  you  like."  But  she  knew  he  didn't  love 
her.  Not  to  have  cared  enough  to  scratch  out  that 
word  "disgust,"  so  that  she  couldn't  read  it!  Soon 
Autumn  yields  unto  Winter  Drear.  She  would 
have  to  leave  the  school,  too.  She  could  never  face 
the  Science  Mistress  or  the  girls  after  it  got  known. 
She  would  have  to  disappear  somewhere.  Passes 
away.  The  voices  began  to  die,  to  fade,  to  whisper 
...  to  vanish.  .  .  . 

Suddenly  the  door  opened.  A  little  girl  in  blue 
walked  fussily  up  the  aisle,  hanging  her  head,  biting 
her  lips,  and  twisting  the  silver  bangle  on  her  red 
little  wrist.  She  came  up  the  steps  and  stood  before 
Miss  Meadows. 

"Well,  Monica,  what  Is  It?" 

"Oh,  If  you  please.  Miss  Meadows,"  said  the 
little  girl,  gasping,  "Miss  Wyatt  wants  to  see  you 
In  the  mistress's  room." 

"Very  well,"  said  Miss  Meadows.  And  she 
207 


The  Singing  Lesson 

called  to  the  girls,  "I  shall  put  you  on  your  honour 
to  talk  quietly  while  I  am  away."  But  they 
were  too  subdued  to  do  anything  else.  Most  of 
them  were  blowing  their  noses. 

The  corridors  were  silent  and  cold;  they  echoed 
to  Miss  Meadows'  steps.  The  head  mistress  sat 
at  her  desk.  For  a  moment  she  did  not  look  up. 
She  was  as  usual  disentangling  her  eyeglasses,  which 
had  got  caught  in  her  lace  tie.  *'Sit  down,  Miss 
Meadows,"  she  said  very  kindly.  And  then  she 
picked  up  a  pink  envelope  from  the  blotting-pad. 
*'I  sent  for  you  just  now  because  this  telegram  has 
come  for  you." 

"A  telegram  for  me,  Miss  Wyatt?" 

Basil  I  He  had  committed  suicide,  decided  Miss 
Meadows.  Her  hand  flew  out,  but  Miss  Wyatt 
held  the  telegram  back  a  moment.  "I  hope  it's  not 
bad  news,"  she  said,  so  more  than  kindly.  And 
Miss  Meadows  tore  it  open. 

"Pay  no  attention  to  letter,  must  have  been  mad, 
bought  hat-stand  to-day — Basil,"  she  read.  She 
couldn't  take  her  eyes  off  the  telegram. 

"I  do  hope  it's  nothing  very  serious,"  said  Miss 
Wyatt,  leaning  forward. 

"Oh,  no,  thank  you,  Miss  Wyatt,"  blushed  Miss 
Meadows.  "It's  nothing  bad  at  all.  It's" — and 
she  gave  an  apologetic  little  laugh — "it's  from  my 

fiance    saying    that  .  .  .  saying    that "  There 

was  a  pause.  "I  secj*  said  Miss  Wyatt.  And  an- 
other pause.     Then "You've  fifteen  minutes 

208 


The  Singing  Lesson 

more  of  your  dass,  Miss  Meadows,  haven^t  you?*' 

'Tes,  Miss  Wyatt."  She  got  up.  She  half  ran 
towards  the  door. 

"Oh,  just  one  minute,  Miss  Meadows,"  said  Miss 
Wyatt.  "I  must  say  I  don't  approve  of  my  teachers 
having  telegrams  sent  to  them  in  school  hours,  unless 
in  case  of  very  bad  news,  such  as  death,"  explained 
Miss  Wyatt,  *'or  a  very  serious  accident,  or  some- 
thing to  that  effect.  Good  news,  Miss  Meadows, 
will  always  keep,  you  know." 

On  the  wings  of  hope,  of  love,  of  joy,  Miss 
Meadows  sped  back  to  the  music  hall,  up  the  aisle, 
up  the  steps,  over  to  the  piano. 

"Page  thirty-two,  Mary,"  she  said,  "page  thirty- 
two,'*  and,  picking  up  the  yellow  chrysanthemum, 
she  held  it  to  her  lips  to  hide  her  smile.  Then  she 
turned  to  the  girls,  rapped  with  her  baton:  "Page 
thirty-two,  girls.     Page  thirty-two." 

We  come  here  To-day  with  Flowers  overladen. 
With  Baskets  of  Fruit  and  Ribbons  to  boot, 
To-oo  Congratulate.  ,  .  . 

"Stop!  Stop!"  cried  Miss  Meadows.  "This  Is 
awful.  This  is  dreadful."  And  she  beamed  at  her 
girls.  "What's  the  matter  with  you  all?  Think, 
girls,  think  of  what  you're  singing.  Use  your  im- 
aginations. PFith  Flowers  overladen.  Baskets  of 
Fruit  and  Ribbons  to  boot.  And  Congratulate.^* 
Miss  Meadows  broke  off.  "Don't  look  so  doleful, 
girls.     It   ought    to    sound   warm,    joyful,    eager. 

209 


The  Singing  Lesson 

Congratulate.    Once  more.    Quickly.    All  together. 
Now  then!" 

And  this  time  Miss  Meadows'  voice  sounded  over 
all  the  other  voices — full,  deep,  glowing  with  ex- 
pression., 


2IO 


THE  STRANGER 

IT  seemed  to  the  little  crowd  on  the  wharf  that 
she  was  never  going  to  move  again.  There 
she  lay,  immense,  motionless  on  the  grey 
crinkled  water,  a  loop  of  smoke  above  her,  an  im- 
mense flock  of  gulls  screaming  and  diving  after  the 
galley  droppings  at  the  stern.  You  could  just  see 
little  couples  parading — little  flies  walking  up  and 
down  the  dish  on  the  grey  crinkled  tablecloth. 
Other  flies  clustered  and  swarmed  at  the  edge. 
Now  there  was  a  gleam  of  white  on  the  lower  deck 
— the  cook's  apron  or  the  stewardess  perhaps. 
Now  a  tiny  black  spider  raced  up  the  ladder  on  to 
the  bridge. 

In  the  front  of  the  crowd  a  strong-looking, 
middle-aged  man,  dressed  very  well,  very  snugly  in 
a  grey  overcoat,  grey  silk  scarf,  thick  gloves  and 
dark  felt  hat,  marched  up  and  down,  twirling  his 
folded  umbrella.  He  seemed  to  be  the  leader  of  the 
little  crowd  on  the  wharf  and  at  the  same  time  to 
keep  them  together.  He  was  something  between 
the  sheep-dog  and  the  shepherd. 

But  what  a  fool — what  a  fool  he  had  been  not  to 
bring  any  glasses!  There  wasn't  a  pair  of  glasses 
between  the  whole  lot  of  them. 

^'Curious  thing,  Mr.  Scott,  that  none  of  us 
211 


The  Stranger 

thought  of  glasses.  We  might  have  been  able  to 
stir  'em  up  a  bit.  We  might  have  managed  a  little 
signalling.  Don^t  hesitate  to  land.  Natives  harm- 
less. Or :  A  welcome  awaits  you.  All  is  forgiven. 
What?     Eh?'' 

Mr.  Hammond's  quick,  eager  glance,  so  nervous 
and  yet  so  friendly  and  confiding,  took  in  everybody 
on  the  wharf,  roped  in  even  those  old  chaps  loung- 
ing against  the  gangways.  They  knew,  every  man- 
jack  of  them,  that  Mrs.  Hammond  was  on  that 
boat,  and  he  was  so  tremendously  excited  it  never 
entered  his  head  not  to  believe  that  this  marvellous 
fact  meant  something  to  them  too.  It  warmed  his 
heart  towards  them.     They  were,  he  decided,   as 

decent  a  crowd  of  people Those  old  chaps 

over  by  the  gangways,  too — fine,  solid  old  chaps. 
What  chests — by  Jove !  And  he  squared  his  own, 
plunged  his  thick-gloved  hands  Into  his  pockets, 
rocked  from  heel  to  toe. 

'Tes,  my  wife's  been  in  Europe  for  the  last  ten 
months.  On  a  visit  to  our  eldest  girl,  who  was 
married  last  year.  I  brought  her  up  here,  as  far 
as  Salisbury,  myself.  So  I  thought  I'd  better  come 
and  fetch  her  back.  Yes,  yes,  yes."  The  shrewd 
grey  eyes  narrowed  again  and  searched  anxiously, 
quickly,  the  motionless  liner.  Again  his  overcoat 
was  unbuttoned.  Out  came  the  thin,  butter-yellow 
watch  again,  and  for  the  twentieth — fiftieth — hun- 
dredth time  he  made  the  calculation. 

"Let  me  see,  now.  It  was  two  fifteen  when  the 
212 


The  Stranger 

doctor's  launch  went  off.  Two  fifteen.  It  is  now 
exactly  twenty-eight  minutes  past  four.  That  is  to 
say,  the  doctor's  been  gone  two  hours  and  thirteen 
minutes.  Two  hours  and  thirteen  minutes!  Whee- 
ooh!"  He  gave  a  queer  little  half-whistle  and 
snapped  his  watch  to  again.  "But  I  think  we  should 
have  been  told  if  there  was  anything  up — don't  you, 
Mr.  Gaven?" 

''Oh,  yes,  Mr.  Hammond!  I  don't  think  there's 
anything  to — anything  to  worry  about,"  said  Mr. 
Gaven,  knocking  out  his  pipe  against  the  heel  of  his 
shoe.     "At  the  same  time " 

"Quite  so!  Quite  so!"  cried  Mr.  Hammond. 
"Dashed  annoying!"  He  paced  quickly  up  and 
down  and  came  back  again  to  his  stand  between  Mr. 
and  Mrs.  Scott  and  Mr.  Gaven.  "It's  getting  quite 
dark,  too,"  and  he  waved  his  folded  umbrella  as 
though  the  dusk  at  least  might  have  had  the  decency 
to  keep  off  for  a  bit.  But  the  dusk  came  slowly, 
spreading  like  a  slow  stain  over  the  water.  Little 
Jean  Scott  dragged  at  her  mother's  hand. 

"I  wan'  my  tea,  mammy!"  she  walled. 

"I  expect  you  do,"  said  Mr.  Hammond.  "I  ex- 
pect  all  these  ladles  want  their  tea."  And  his  kind, 
flushed,  almost  pitiful  glance  roped  them  all  in  again. 
He  wondered  whether  Janey  was  having  a  final  cup 
of  tea  in  the  saloon  out  there.  He  hoped  so;  he 
thought  not.  It  would  be  just  like  her  not  to  leave 
the  deck.  In  that  case  perhaps  the  deck  steward 
would  bring  her  up  a  cup.     If  he'd  been  there  he'd 

213 


The  Stranger 

have  got  it  for  her — somehow.  And  for  a  moment 
he  was  on  deck,  standing  over  her,  watching  her 
little  hand  fold  round  the  cup  in  the  way  she  had, 
while  she  drank  the  only  cup  of  tea  to  be  got  on 
board.  .  .  .  But  now  he  was  back  here,  and  the 
Lord  only  knew  when  that  cursed  Captain  would 
Atop  hanging  about  in  the  stream.  He  took  another 
turn,  up  and  down,  up  and  down.  He  walked  as 
far  as  the  cab-stand  to  make  sure  his  driver  hadn't 
disappeared;  back  he  swerved  again  to  the  little 
flock  huddled  in  the  shelter  of  the  banana  crates. 
Little  Jean  Scott  was  still  wanting  her  tea.  Poor 
little  beggar!  He  wished  he  had  a  bit  of  chocolate 
on  him. 

"Here,  Jean !"  he  said.  "Like  a  lift  up  ?"  And 
easily,  gently,  he  swung  the  little  girl  on  to  a  higher 
barrel.  The  movement  of  holding  her,  steadying 
her,  relieved  him  wonderfully,  lightened  his  heart. 

"Hold  on,"  he  said,  keeping  an  arm  round  her. 

"Oh,  don't  worry  about  Jean,  Mr.  Hammond!" 
said  Mrs.  Scott. 

"That's  all  right,  Mrs.  Scott.  No  trouble.  It's 
a  pleasure.  Jean's  a  little  pal  of  mine,  aren't  you, 
Jean?" 

"Yes,  Mr.  Hammond,"  said  Jean,  and  she  ran  her 
finger  down  the  dent  of  his  felt  hat. 

But  suddenly  she  caught  him  by  the  ear  and  gave 
a  loud  scream.  "Lo-ok,  Mr.  Hammond!  She's 
moving!  Look,  she's  coming  in!" 

By  Jove!     So    she    was.     At   last!     She   was 
214 


The  Stranger 

slowly,  slowly  turning  round.  A  bell  sounded  far 
over  the  water  and  a  great  spout  of  steam  gushed 
into  the  air.  The  gulls  rose;  they  fluttered  away 
like  bits  of  white  paper.  And  whether  that  deep 
throbbing  was  her  engines  or  his  heart  Mr.  Ham- 
mond couldn't  say.  He  had  to  nerve  himself  to 
bear  it,  whatever  it  was.  At  that  moment  old  Cap- 
tain Johnson,  the  harbour-master,  came  striding 
down  the  wharf,  a  leather  portfolio  under  his  arm. 

"JeanUl  be  all  right,"  said  Mr.  Scott.  "FU  hold 
her."  He  was  just  in  time.  Mr.  Hammond  had 
forgotten  about  Jean.  He  sprang  away  to  greet 
old  Captain  Johnson. 

"Well,  Captain,"  the  eager,  nervous  voice  rang 
out  again,  "youVe  taken  pity  on  us  at  last." 

"It's  no  good  blaming  me,  Mr.  Hammond," 
wheezed  old  Captain  Johnson,  staring  at  the  liner. 
"You  got  Mrs.  Hammond  on  board,  ain't  yen?" 

"Yes,  yes!"  said  Hammond,  and  he  kept  by  the 
harbour-master's  side.  "Mrs.  Hammond's  there. 
Hul-lo !     We  shan't  be  long  now !" 

With  her  telephone  ring-ringing,  the  thrum  of  her 
screw  filling  the  air,  the  big  liner  bore  down  on  them, 
cutting  sharp  through  the  dark  water  so  that  big 
white  shavings  curled  to  either  side.  Hammond 
and  the  harbour-master  kept  in  front  of  the  rest. 
Hammond  took  off  his  hat ;  he  raked  the  decks — they 
were  crammed  with  passengers;  he  waved  his  hat 
and  bawled  a  loud,  strange  "Hul-lo!"  across  the 
water ;  and  then  turned  round  and  burst  out  laugh- 

215 


The  Stranger 

ing  and  said  something — nothing — to  old  Captain 
Johnson. 

"Seen  her?"  asked  the  harbour-master. 

"No,  not  yet.  Steady — wait  a  bit!"  And  sud- 
denly, between  two  great  clumsy  idiots — "Get  out  of 
the  way  there!"  he  signed  with  his  umbrella — he 
saw  a  hand  raised — a  white  glove  shaking  a  hand^ 
kerchief.  Another  moment,  and — thank  God, 
thank  God! — there  she  was.  There  was  Janey. 
There  was  Mrs.  Hammond,  yes,  yes,  yes — standing 
by  the  rail  and  smiling  and  nodding  and  waving  her 
handkerchief. 

"Well,  that^s  first  class — first  class !  Well,  well, 
well!"  He  positively  stamped.  Like  lightning  he 
drew  out  his  cigar-case  and  offered  it  to  old  Captain 
Johnson.  "Have  a  cigar,  Captain!  They're 
pretty  good.  Have  a  couple!  Here" — and  he 
pressed  all  the  cigars  in  the  case  on  the  harbour- 
master— "I've  a  couple  of  boxes  up  at  the  hotel." 

"Thenks,  Mr.  Hammond!"  wheezed  old  Captain 
Johnson. 

Hammond  stuffed  the  cigar-case  back.  Hio 
hands  were  shaking,  but  he'd  got  hold  of  himselr 
again.  He  was  able  to  face  Janey.  There  she  was, 
leaning  on  the  rail,  talking  tc  some  woman  and  at 
the  same  time  watching  him^  ready  for  him.  It 
struck  him,  as  the  gulf  of  water  closed,  how  small 
she  looked  on  that  huge  ship.  His  heart  was  wrung 
with  such  a  spasm  that  he  could  have  cried  out. 
How  little  she  looked  to  have  come  all  that  long 

2i6 


The  Stranger 

way  and  back  by  herself!     Just  like  her,  though. 

Just  like  Janey.     She  had  the  courage  of  a 

And  now  the  crew  had  come  forward  and  parted 
the  passengers;  they  had  lowered  the  rails  for  the 
gangways. 

The  voices  on  shore  and  the  voices  on  board  flew 
to  greet  each  other. 

"All  well  ?'^ 

"All  well." 

"How's  mother?" 

"Much  better." 

"Hullo,  Jean!" 

"Hillo,Aun' Emily!" 

"Had  a  good  voyage?" 

"Splendid!" 

"Shan't  be  long  now!" 

"Not  long  now." 

The  engines  stopped.  Slowly  she  edged  to  the 
wharf-side. 

"Make  way  there — make  way — make  way!" 
And  the  wharf  hands  brought  the  heavy  gangways 
along  at  a  sweeping  run.  Hammond  signed  to 
Janey  to  stay  where  she  was.  The  old  harbour- 
master stepped  forward ;  he  followed.  As  to  "ladies 
first,"  or  any  rot  like  that,  it  never  entered  his  head. 

"After  you.  Captain!"  he  cried  genially.  And, 
treading  on  the  old  man's  heels,  he  strode  up  the 
gangway  on  to  the  deck  in  a  bee-line  to  Janey,  and 
Janey  was  clasped  in  his  arms. 

"Well,  well,  well!  Yes,  yes!  Here  we  are  at 
217 


The  Stranger 

last!"  he  stammered.  It  was  all  he  could  say. 
And  Janey  emerged,  and  her  cool  little  voice — the 
only  voice  in  the  world  for  him — said, 

*'Well,  darling!     Have  you  been  waiting  long?" 

No;  not  long.  Or,  at  any  rate,  it  didn't  matter. 
It  was  over  now.  But  the  point  was,  he  had  a  cab 
waiting  at  the  end  of  the  wharf.  Was  she  ready 
to  go  off.  Was  her  luggage  ready?  In  that  case 
they  could  cut  off  sharp  with  her  cabin  luggage  and 
let  the  rest  go  hang  until  to-morrow.  He  bent  over 
her  and  she  looked  up  with  her  familar  half-smile. 
She  was  just  the  same.  Not  a  day  changed.  Just 
as  he'd  always  known  her.  She  laid  her  small  hand 
on  his  sleeve. 

"How  are  the  children,  John?"  she  asked. 

(Hang  the  children!)  "Perfectly  well.  Never 
better  in  their  lives." 

"Haven't  they  sent  me  letters?" 

"Yes,  yes — of  course !  I've  left  them  at  the  hotel 
for  you  to  digest  later  on." 

"We  can't  go  quite  so  fast,"  said  she.  "I've 
got  people  to  say  good-bye  to — and  then  there's 
the  Captain."  As  his  face  fell  she  gave  his  arm  a 
small  understanding  squeeze.  "If  the  Captain 
comes  off  the  bridge  I  want  you  to  thank  him  for 
having  looked  after  your  wife  so  beautifully." 
Well,  he'd  got  her.  If  she  wanted  another  ten  min- 
utes      As  he  gave   way  she  was   surrounded. 

The  whole  first-class  seemed  to  want  to  say  good- 
bye to  Janey.. 

2l8 


The  Stranger 

"Good-bye,  dear  Mrs.  Hammond!  And  next 
time  you're  in  Sydney  I'll  expect  you." 

"Darling  Mrs.  Hammond!  You  won't  forget 
to  write  to  me,  will  you?" 

"Well,  Mrs.  Hammond,  what  this  boat  would 
have  been  without  you !" 

It  was  as  plain  as  a  pikestaff  that  she  was  by  far 
the  most  popular  woman  on  board.  And  she  took 
it  all — just  as  usual.  Absolutely  composed.  Just 
her  little  self — ^just  Janey  all  over;  standing  there 
with  her  veil  thrown  back.  Hammond  never 
noticed  what  his  wife  had  on.  It  was  all  the  same 
to  him  whatever  she  wore.  But  to-day  he  did 
notice  that  she  wore  a  black  "costume" — didn't 
they  call  it? — with  white  frills,  trimmings  he  sup- 
posed they  were,  at  the  neck  and  sleeves.  All  this 
while  Janey  handed  him  round. 

"John,  dear !"  And  then :  "I  want  to  introduce 
you  to " 

Finally  they  did  escape,  and  she  led  the  way  to 
her  state-room.  To  follow  Janey  down  the  pas- 
sage that  she  knew  so  well — that  was  so  strange  to 
him;  to  part  the  green  curtains  after  her  and  to  step 
into  the  cabin  that  had  been  hers  gave  him  exquisite 
happiness.  But — confound  it! — the  stewardess 
was  there  on  the  floor,  strapping  up  the  rugs. 

"That's  the  last,  Mrs.  Hammond,"  said  the 
stewardess,  rising  and  pulling  down  her  cuffs. 

He  was  introduced  again,  and  then  Janey  and  the 
stewardess    disappeared    into    the    passage.     He 

219 


The  Stranger 

heard  whisperings.  She  was  getting  the  tipping 
business  over,  he  supposed.  He  sat  down  on  the 
striped  sofa  and  took  his  hat  off.  There  were  the 
rugs  she  had  taken  with  her;  they  looked  good  as 
new.  All  her  luggage  looked  fresh,  perfect.  The 
labels  were  written  in  her  beautiful  little  clear  hand 
— "  Mrs.  John  Hammond." 

"Mrs.  John  Hammond!'*  He  gave  a  long  sigh 
of  content  and  leaned  back,  crossing  his  arms. 
The  strain  was  over.  He  felt  he  could  have  sat 
there  for  ever  sighing  his  relief — the  relief  at  being 
rid  of  that  horrible  tug,  pull,  grip  on  his  heart. 
The  danger  was  over.  That  was  the  feeling. 
They  were  on  dry  land  again. 

But  at  that  moment  Janey's  head  came  round  the 
corner. 

"Darling — do  you  mind?  I  just  want  to  go  and 
say  good-bye  to  the  doctor.*' 

Hammond  started  up.     "I'll  come  with  you." 

"No,  no !"  she  said.  "Don't  bother.  I'd  rather 
not.     I'll  not  be  a  minute." 

And  before  he  could  answer  she  was  gone.  He 
had  half  a  mind  to  run  after  her;  but  instead  he  sat 
down  again. 

Would  she  really  not  be  long?  What  was  the 
time  now?  Out  came  the  watch;  he  stared  at  noth- 
ing. That  was  rather  queer  of  Janey,  wasn't  It? 
VVhy  couldn't  she  have  told  the  stewardess  to  say 
good-bye  for  her?  Why  did  she  have  to  go  chas- 
ing after  the  ship's  doctor?     She  could  have  sent 

220 


The  Stranger 

a  note  from  the  hotel  even  If  the  affair  had  been 
urgent.  Urgent?  Did  it — could  It  mean  that  she 
had  been  111  on  the  voyage — she  was  keeping  some- 
thing from  him?  That  was  It !  He  seized  his  hat. 
He  was  going  off  to  find  that  fellow  and  to  wring 
the  truth  out  of  him  at  all  costs.  He  thought  he'd 
noticed  just  something.  She  was  just  a  touch  too 
calm — too  steady.  From  the  very  first  mo- 
ment  

The  curtains  rang.  Janey  was  back.  He 
jumped  to  his  feet. 

"Janey,  have  you  been  ill  on  this  voyage?  You 
have!" 

"Fll?"  Her  airy  little  voice  mocked  him.  She 
stepped  over  the  rugs,  and  came  up  close,  touched 
his  breast,  and  looked  up  at  him. 

"Darling,"  she  said,  "don't  frighten  me.  Of 
course  I  haven't!  Whatever  makes  you  think  I 
have?     Do  I  look  111?" 

But  Hammond  didn't  see  her.  He  only  felt  that 
she  was  looking  at  him  and  that  there  was  no  need 
to  worry  about  anything.  She  was  here  to  look 
after  things.     It  was  all  right.     Everything  was. 

The  gentle  pressure  of  her  hand  was  so  calming 
that  he  put  his  over  hers  to  hold  it  there.  And 
she  said: 

"Stand  still.  I  want  to  look  at  you.  I  haven't 
seen  you  yet.  You've  had  your  beard  beautifully 
trimmed,  and  you  look — younger,  I  think,  and  de- 
cidedly thinner!     Bachelor  life  agrees  with  you." 

221 


The  Stranger 

"Agrees  with  me!"  He  groaned  for  love  and 
caught  her  close  again.  And  again,  as  always,  he 
had  the  feeling  he  was  holding  something  that  never 
was  quite  his — his.  Something  too  delicate,  too 
precious,  that  would  fly  away  once  he  let  go. 

"For  God's  sake  let's  get  off  to  the  hotel  so  that 
we  can  be  by  ourselves!"  And  he  rang  the  bell 
hard  for  some  one  to  look  sharp  with  the  luggage. 


Walking  down  the  wharf  together  she  took  his 
arm.  He  had  her  on  his  arm  again.  And  the 
difference  It  made  to  get  Into  the  cab  after  Janey — 
to  throw  the  red-and-yellow  striped  blanket  round 
them  both — to  tell  the  driver  to  hurry  because 
neither  of  them  had  had  any  tea.  No  more  going 
without  his  tea  or  pouring  out  his  own.  She  was 
back.  He  turned  to  her,  squeezed  her  hand,  and 
said  gently,  teaslngly,  In  the  "special"  voice  he  had 
for  her:  "Glad  to  be  home  again,  dearie?"  She 
smiled;  she  didn't  even  bother  to  answer,  but  gently 
she  drew  his  hand  away  as  they  came  to  the  brighter 
streets. 

"WeVe  got  the  best  room  In  the  hotel,"  he  said. 
"I  wouldn't  be  put  off  with  another.  And  I  asked 
the  chambermaid  to  put  In  a  bit  of  a  fire  In  case  you 
felt  chilly.  She's  a  nice,  attentive  girl.  And  I 
thought  now  we  were  here  we  wouldn't  bother  to  go 
home  to-morrow,  but  spend  the  day  looking  round 
and  leave  the  morning  after.     Does  that  suit  you? 

222 


The  Stranger 

There's  no  hurry,  Is  there  ?  The  children  will  have 
you  soon  enough.  ...  I  thought  a  day's  sight-see- 
ing might  make  a  nice  break  in  your  journey — eh, 
Janey?" 

''Have  you  taken  the  tickets  for  the  day  after?" 
she  asked. 

'1  should  think  I  have!"  He  unbuttoned  his 
overcoat  and  took  out  his  bulging  pocket-book. 
"Here  we  are !  I  reserved  a  first-class  carriage  to 
Cooktown.  There  it  is — 'Mr.  and  Mrs.  John 
Hammond.'  I  thought  we  might  as  well  do  our- 
selves comfortably,  and  we  don't  want  other  people 
butting  In,  do  we?  But  if  you'd  like  to  stop  here  a 
bit  longer ?" 

"Oh,  no!"  said  Janey  quickly.  "Not  for  the 
world!  The  day  after  to-morrow,  then.  And  the 
children " 

But  they  had  reached  the  hotel.  The  manager 
was  standing  in  the  broad,  brilliantly-lighted  porch. 
He  came  down  to  greet  them.  A  porter  ran  from 
the  hall  for  their  boxes. 

"Well,  Mr.  Arnold,  here's  Mrs.  Hammond  at 
last!" 

The  manager  led  them  through  the  hall  him- 
self and  pressed  the  elevator-bell.  Hammond  knew 
there  were  business  pals  of  his  sitting  at  the  little 
hall  tables  having  a  drink  before  dinner.  But  he 
wasn't  going  to  risk  Interruption;  he  looked 
neither  to  the  right  nor  the  left.  They  could  think 
what  they  pleased.     If  they  didn't  understand,  the 

223 


The  Stranger 

more  fools  they — and  he  stepped  out  of  the  lift, 
unlocked  the  door  of  their  room,  and  shepherded 
Janey  In.     The  door  shut.     Now,  at  last,  they  were    „ 
alone  together..     He  turned  up  the  light.     The  cur-  | 
tains  were  drawn;  the  fire  blazed.     He  flung  his 
hat  on  to  the  huge  bed  and  went  towards  her. 

But — would  you  believe  it ! — again  they  were  Ir^ 
terrupted.  This  time  it  was  the  porter  with  the 
luggage.  He  made  two  journeys  of  it,  leaving 
the  door  open  in  between,  taking  his  time,  whis- 
tling through  his  teeth  in  the  corridor.  Hammond 
paced  up  and  down  the  room,  tearing  off  his  gloves, 
tearing  off  his  scarf.  Finally  he  flung  his  overcoat 
on  to  the  bedside. 

At  last  the  fool  was  gone.  The  door  clicked. 
Now  they  were  alone.  Said  Hammond:  "I  feel  Fll 
never  have  you  to  myself  again.  These  cursed 
people!  Janey'' — and  he  bent  his  flushed,  eager 
gaze  upon  her — ^'let's  have  dinner  up  here.  If  we 
go  down  to  the  restaurant  we'll  be  interrupted,  and 
then  there's  the  confounded  music"  (the  music  he'd 
praised  so  highly,  applauded  so  loudly  last  night!). 
*'We  shaa't  be  able  to  hear  each  other  speak.  Let's 
have  something  up  here  in  front  of  the  fire.  It's 
too  late  for  tea.  I'll  order  a  little  supper,  shall  I? 
How  does  that  Idea  strike  you?" 

"Do,  darling!"  said  Janey.  "And  while  you're 
away — the  children's  letters " 

"Oh,  later  on  will  do !"  said  Hammond. 
224 


The  Stranger 

'But  then  we'd  get  It  over/'  said  Janey.     "And 


I'd  first  have  time  to 

"Oh,  I  needn't  go  down!"  explained  Hammond. 
"I'll  just  ring  and  give  the  order  .  .  .  you  don't 
want  to  send  me  away,  do  you?" 

Janey  shook  her  head  and  smiled. 

"But  you're  thinking  of  something  else.  You're 
worrying  about  something,"  said  Hammond. 
''What  is  it?  Come  and  sit  here — come  and  sit  on 
my  knee  before  the  fire." 

"I'll  just  unpin  my  hat,"  said  Janey,  and  she  went 
over  to  the  dressing-table.  "A-ah!"  She  gave  a 
little  cry. 

"What  Is  it?" 

"Nothing,  darling.  I've  just  found  the  chil- 
dren's letters.  That's  all  right!  They  will  keep. 
No  hurry  now!"  She  turned  to  him,  clasping 
them.  She  tucked  them  into  her  frilled  blouse. 
She  cried  quickly,  gaily:  "Oh,  how  typical  this  dress- 
ing-table is  of  you!" 

"Why?  What's  the  matter  with  It?"  said  Ham- 
mond. 

"If  It  were  floating  In  eternity  I  should  say 
'John!'"  laughed  Janey,  staring  at  the  big  bottle 
of  hair  tonic,  the  wicker  bottle  of  eau-de-Cologne, 
the  two  hair-brushes,  and  a  dozen  new  collars  tied 
with  pink  tape.     "Is  this  all  your  luggage?" 

"Hang  my  luggage!"  said  Hammond;  but  all  the 
same  he  liked  being  laughed  at  by  Janey.     "Let's 

225 


The  Stranger 

talk.  Let's  get  down  to  things.  Tell  me" — and 
as  Janey  perched  on  his  knees  he  leaned  back  and 
drew  her  Into  the  deep,  ugly  chair — *'tell  me  you're 
really  glad  to  be  back,  Janey." 

''Yes,  darling,  I  am  glad,"  she  said. 

But  just  as  when  he  embraced  her  he  felt  she 
would  fly  away,  so  Hammond  never  knew — never 
knew  for  dead  certain  that  she  was  as  glad  as  he 
was.  How  could  he  know?  Would  he  ever 
know?  Would  he  always  have  this  craving — this 
pang  like  hunger,  somehow,  to  make  Janey  so  much 
part  of  him  that  there  wasn't  any  of  her  to  escape? 
He  wanted  to  blot  out  everybody,  everything.  He 
wished  now  he'd  turned  off  the  light.  That  might 
have  brought  her  nearer.  And  now  those  letters 
from  the  children  rustled  in  her  blouse.  He  could 
have  chucked  them  into  the  lire. 

"Janey,"  he  whispered. 

"Yes,  dear?"  She  lay  on  his  breast,  but  so 
lightly,  so  remotely.  Their  breathing  rose  and  fell 
together. 

"Janey!" 

"What  is  it?" 

"Turn  to  me,"  he  whispered.  A  slow,  deep  flush 
flowed  into  his  forehead.  "Kiss  me,  Janey!  You 
kiss  me!" 

It  seemed  to  him  there  was  a  tiny  pause — but 
long  enough  for  him  to  suffer  torture — ^before  her 
lips  touched  his,  firmly,  lightly — kissing  them  as  she 
always  kissed  him,  as  though  the  kiss — how  could 

226 


The  Stranger 

he  describe  it? — confirmed  what  they  were  saying, 
signed  the  contract.  But  that  wasn't  what  he 
wanted;  that  wasn't  at  all  what  he  thirsted  for. 
He  felt  suddenly,  horribly  tired. 

'If  you  knew,"  he  said,  opening  his  eyes,  "what 
it's  been  like — waiting  to-day.  I  thought  the  boat 
never  would  come  in.  There  we  were,  hanging 
about.     What  kept  you  so  long?" 

She  made  no  answer.  She  was  looking  away 
from  him  at  the  fire.  The  flames  hurried — hur- 
ried over  the  coals,  flickered,  fell. 

''Not  asleep,  are  you?"  said  Hammond,  and  he 
jumped  her  up  and  down. 

"No,"  she  said.  And  then:  "Don't  do  that, 
dear.  No,  I  was  thinking.  As  a  matter  of  fact,'* 
she  said,  "one  of  the  passengers  died  last  night — • 
a  man.  That's  what  held  us  up.  We  brought  him 
in — I  mean,  he  wasn't  buried  at  sea.  So,  of  course, 
the  ship's  doctor  and  the  shore  doctor " 

"What  was  it?"  asked  Hammond  uneasily.  He 
hated  to  hear  of  death.  He  hated  this  to  have 
happened.  It  was,  in  some  queer  way,  as  though 
he  and  Janey  had  met  a  funeral  on  their  way  to  the 
hotel. 

"Oh,  it  wasn't  anything  in  the  least  infectious !" 
said  Janey.  She  was  speaking  scarcely  above  her 
breath.  "It  was  heart/'  A  pause.  "Poor  fel- 
low!" she  said.  "Quite  young."  And  she  watched 
the  fire  flicker  and  fall.  "He  died  in  my  arms,'^ 
said  Janey. 

227 


The  Stranger 

The  blow  was  so  sudden  that  Hammond  thought 
he  would  faint.  He  couldn't  move;  he  couldn't 
breathe.  He  felt  all  his  strength  flowing — 
flowing  into  the  big  dark  chair,  and  the  big  dark 
chair  held  him  fast,  gripped  him,  forced  him  to 
bear  it. 

"What?"  he  said  dully.  "What's  that  you 
say?" 

"The  end  was  quite  peaceful,"  said  the  small 
voice.  "He  just" — and  Hammond  saw  her  lift  her 
gentle  hand — "breathed  his  life  away  at  the  end." 
And  her  hand  fell. 

"Who — else  was  there?"  Hammond  managed  to 
ask. 

"Nobody.     I  was  alone  with  him." 

Ah,  my  God,  what  was  she  saying!  What  was 
she  doing  to  him !  This  would  kill  him !  And  all 
the  while  she  spoke : 

"I  saw  the  change  coming  and  I  sent  the  steward 
for  the  doctor,  but  the  doctor  was  too  late.  He 
couldn't  have  done  anything,  anyway." 

"But — why  you,  why  yoiiT^  moaned  Hammond. 

At  that  Janey  turned  quickly,  quickly  searched 
his  face. 

"You  don't  mind,   John,   do   you?"   she    asked. 

"You  don't It's  nothing  to  do  with  you  and 

me. 

Somehow  or  other  he  managed  to  shake  some 
sort  of  smile  at  her.     Somehow  or  other  he  stam- 

228 


The  Stranger 

mered:  "No— go — on,  go  on!     I  want  you  to  tell 


me. 


"But.  John  darling " 

"Tell  me,  Janey!" 

"There's  nothing  to  tell,''  she  said,  wondering. 
"He  was  one  of  the  first-class  passengers.  I  saw 
he  was  very  ill  when  he  came  on  board.  .  .  .  But 
he  seemed  to  be  so  much  better  until  yesterday. 
He  had  a  severe  attack  In  the  afternoon — excite- 
ment— nervousness,  I  think,  about  arriving.  And 
after  that  he  never  recovered." 

"But  why  didn't  the  stewardess '* 

"Oh,  my  dear — the  stewardess!"  said  Janey. 
"What  would  he  have  felt?  And  besides  ...  he 
might  have  wanted  to  leave  a  message  .  .  . 
to " 

"Didn't  he?"  muttered  Hammond.  "Didn't  he 
say  anything?" 

"No,  darling,  not  a  word!"  She  shook  her  head 
softly.  "All  the  time  I  was  with  him  he  was  too 
weak  ...  he  was  too  weak  even  to  move  a 
finger.   ..." 

Janey  was  silent.  But  her  words,  so  light,  so 
soft,  so  chill,  seemed  to  hover  in  the  air,  to  rain  into 
his  breast  like  snow. 

The  fire  had  gone  red.  Now  it  fell  in  with  a 
sharp  sound  and  the  room  was  colder.  Cold  crept 
up  his  arms.  The  room  was  huge.  Immense,  glit- 
tering.    It  filled  his  whole  world.     There  was  the 

229 


The  Stranger 

great  blind  bed,  with  his  coat  flung  across  it  like 
some  headless  man  saying  his  prayers.  There  was 
the  luggage,  ready  to  be  carried  away  again,  any- 
where, tossed  into  trains,  carted  on  to  boats. 

.  .  .  ''He  was  too  weak.  He  was  too  weak  to 
move  a  finger."  And  yet  he  died  In  Janey^s  arms. 
She — who'd  never — never  once  in  all  these  years — 
never  on  one  single  solitary  occasion 

No;  he  mustn't  think  of  it.  Madness  lay  in 
thinking  of  it.  No,  he  wouldn't  face  it.  He 
couldn't  stand  it.     It  was  too  much  to  bear! 

And  now  Janey  touched  his  tie  with  her  fingers. 
She  pinched  the  edges  of  the  tie  together. 

"YouVe  not — sorry  I  told  you,  John  darling?  It 
hasn't  made  you  sad?  It  hasn't  spoilt  our  evening — 
our  being  alone  together?" 

But  at  that  he  had  to  hide  his  face.  He  put  his 
face  Into  her  bosom  and  his  arms  enfolded  her. 

Spoilt  their  evening!  Spoilt  their  being  alone 
together!  They  would  never  be  alone  together 
again. 


230 


BANK  HOLIDAY 

A  STOUT  man  with  a  pink  face  wears  dingy 
white  flannel  trousers,  a  blue  coat  with  a 
pink  handkerchief  showing,  and  a  straw 
hat  much  too  small  for  him,  perched  at  the  back  of 
his  head.  He  plays  the  guitar.  A  little  chap  in 
white  canvas  shoes,  his  face  hidden  under  a  felt 
hat  like  a  broken  wing,  breathes  into  a  flute;  and 
a  tall  thin  fellow,  with  bursting  over-ripe  button 
boots,  draws  ribbons — long,  twisted,  streaming 
ribbons — of  tune  out  of  a  fiddle.  They  stand, 
unsmiling,  but  not  serious,  in  the  broad  sunlight 
opposite  the  fruit-shop;  the  pink  spider  of  a  hand 
beats  the  guitar,  the  little  squat  hand,  with  a  brass- 
and-turquolse  ring,  forces  the  reluctant  flute,  and 
the  fiddler's  arm  tries  to  saw  the  fiddle  in  two. 

A  crowd  collects,  eating  oranges  and  bananas, 
tearing  off  the  skins,  dividing,  sharing.  One  young 
girl  has  even  a  basket  of  strawberries,  but  she  does 
not  eat  them.  "Aren't  they  dearT*  She  stares  at 
the  tiny  pointed  fruits  as  If  she  were  afraid  of  them. 
The  Australian  soldier  laughs.  "Here,  go  on, 
there's  not  more  than  a  mouthful."  But  he  doesn't 
want  her  to  eat  them,  either.  He  likes  to  watch 
her  little  frightened  face,  and  her  puzzled  eyes  lifted 
to  his:  "Aren't  they  a  price P'     He  pushes  out  his 

231 


Bank  Holiday 

chest  and  grins.  Old  fat  women  in  velvet  bodices 
— old  dusty  pin-cushlons — lean  old  hags  like  worn 
umbrellas  with  a  quivering  bonnet  on  top;  young 
women,  in  muslins,  with  hats  that  might  have  grown 
on  hedges,  and  high  pointed  shoes;  men  in  khaki, 
sailors,  shabby  clerks,  young  Jews  in  fine  cloth  suits 
with  padded  shoulders  and  wide  trousers,  "hospital 
boys''  in  blue — the  sun  discovers  them — the  loud, 
bold  music  holds  them  together  in  one  big  knot 
for  a  moment.  The  young  ones  are  larking,  push- 
ing each  other  on  and  off  the  pavement,  dodging, 
nudging;  the  old  ones  are  talking:  "So  I  said  to  'im, 
if  you  wants  the  doctor  to  yourself,  fetch  'im,  says 
I." 

"An'  by  the  time  they  was  cooked  there  wasn't  so 
much  as  you  could  put  in  the  palm  of  me  'and !" 

The  only  ones  who  are  quiet  are  the  ragged 
children.  They  stand,  as  close  up  to  the  musicians 
as  they  can  get,  their  hands  behind  their  backs,  their 
eyes  big.  Occasionally  a  leg  hops,  an  arm  wags. 
A  tiny  staggerer,  overcome,  turns  round  twice,  sits 
down  solemn,  and  then  gets  up  again. 

"Ain't  it  lovely?"  whispers  a  small  girl  behind 
her  hand. 

And  the  music  breaks  into  bright  pieces,  and  joins 
together  again,  and  again  breaks,  and  is  dissolved, 
and  the  crowd  scatters,  moving  slowly  up  the  hill. 

At  the  corner  of  the  road  the  stalls  begin. 

"Ticklers!  Tuppence  a  tickler!  'Ool  'ave  a 
tickler?     Tickle  'em  up,  boys."     Little  soft  brooms 

232 


Bank  Holiday 

on  wire  handles.  They  are  eagerly  bought  by  the 
soldiers. 

*'Buy  a  golliwog!     Tuppence  a  golliwog!" 

"Buy  a  jumping  donkey!     All  alive-oh!" 

'^Su'pcnor  chewing  gum.  Buy  something  to  do, 
boys." 

"Buy  a  rose.  Give  'er  a  rose,  boy.  Roses, 
lady?" 

"Fevvers !  Fevvers !"  They  are  hard  to  resist. 
Lovely,  streaming  feathers,  emerald  green,  scarlet, 
bright  blue,  canary  yellow.  Even  the  babies  wear 
feathers  threaded  through  their  bonnets. 

And  an  old  woman  in  a  three-cornered  paper 
hat  cries  as  if  it  were  her  final  parting  advice,  the 
only  way  of  saving  yourself  or  of  bringing  him  to 
his  senses :  "Buy  a  three-cornered  'at,  my  dear,  an* 
put  it  on!" 

It  is  a  flying  day,  half  sun,  half  wind.  When  the 
sun  goes  in  a  shadow  flies  over;  when  it  comes  out 
again  it  is  fiery.  The  men  and  women  feel  it  burning 
their  backs,  their  breasts  and  their  arms;  they  feel 
their  bodies  expanding,  coming  alive  ...  so  that 
they  make  large  embracing  gestures,  lift  up  their 
arms,  for  nothing,  swoop  down  on  a  girl,  blurt  into 
laughter. 

Lemonade !  A  whole  tank  of  it  stands  on  a  table 
covered  with  a  cloth ;  and  lemons  like  blunted  fishes 
blob  in  the  yellow  water.  It  looks  solid,  like  a 
jelly,  in  the  thick  glasses.  Why  can't  they  drink  it 
without  spilling  it  ?     Everybody  spills  it,  and  before 

233 


Bank  Holiday 

the  glass  is  handed  back  the  last  drops  are  thrown 
in  a  ring. 

Round  the  ice-cream  cart,  with  its  striped  awn- 
ing and  bright  brass  cover,  the  children  cluster. 
Little  tongues  lick,  lick  round  the  cream  trumpets,  J 
round  the  squares.  The  cover  is  lifted,  the  wooden 
spoon  plunges  in;  one  shuts  one's  eyes  to  feel  it, 
silently  scrunching. 

**Let  these  little  birds  tell  you  your  future !"  She 
stands  beside  the  cage,  a  shrivelled  ageless  Italian, 
clasping  and  unclasping  her  dark  claws.  Her  face, 
a  treasure  of  delicate  carving,  is  tied  in  a  green-and- 
gold  scarf.  And  inside  their  prison  the  love-birds 
flutter  towards  the  papers  in  the  seed-tray. 

"You  have  great  strength  of  character.  You 
will  marry  a  red-haired  man  and  have  three  chil- 
dren. Beware  of  a  blonde  woman."  Look  out! 
Look  out!  A  motor-car  driven  by  a  fat  chauffeur 
comes  rushing  down  the  hill.  Inside  there  a  blonde 
woman,  pouting,  leaning  forward — rushing  through 
your  life — beware!  beware! 

"Ladies  and  gentlemen,  I  am  an  auctioneer  by 
profession,  and  if  what  I  tell  you  is  not  the  truth 
I  am  liable  to  have  my  licence  taken  away  from  me 
and  a  heavy  imprisonment."  He  holds  the  licence 
across  his  chest;  the  sweat  pours  down  his  face  into 
his  paper  collar;  his  eyes  look  glazed.  When  he 
takes  off  his  hat  there  is  a  deep  pucker  of  angry 
flesh  on  his  forehead.     Nobody  buys  a  watch. 

Look  out  again !     A  huge  barouche  comes  swing- 

234 


Bank  Holiday 

ing  down  the  hill  with  two  old,  old  babies  inside. 
She  holds  up  a  lace  parasol;  he  sucks  the  knob  of 
his  cane,  and  the  fat  old  bodies  roll  together  as  the 
cradle  rocks,  and  the  steaming  horse  leaves  a  trail 
of  manure  as  it  ambles  down  the  hill. 

Under  a  tree,  Professor  Leonard,  in  cap  and 
gown,  stands  beside  his  banner.  He  is  here  "for 
one  day,''  from  the  London,  Paris  and  Brnssels 
Exhibition,  to  tell  your  fortune  from  your  face. 
And  he  stands,  smiling  encouragement,  like  a  clumsy 
dentist.  When  the  big  men,  romping  and  swearing 
a  moment  before,  hand  across  their  sixpence,  and 
stand  before  him,  they  are  suddenly  serious,  dumb, 
timid,  almost  blushing  as  the  Professor's  quick  hand 
notches  the  printed  card.  They  are  like  little  chil- 
dren caught  playing  in  a  forbidden  garden  by  the 
owner,  stepping  from  behind  a  tree. 

The  top  of  the  hill  is  reached.  How  hot  it  is! 
How  fine  it  is!  The  public-house  is  open,  and  the 
crowd  presses  in.  The  mother  sits  on  the  pave- 
ment edge  with  her  baby,  and  the  father  brings  her 
out  a  glass  of  dark,  brownish  stuff,  and  then  sav- 
agely elbows  his  way  in  again.  A  reek  of  beer 
floats  from  the  public-house,  and  a  loud  clatter  and 
rattle  of  voices. 

The  wind  has  dropped,  and  the  sun  burns  more 
fiercely  than  ever.  Outside  the  two  swing-doors 
there  is  a  thick  mass  of  children  like  flies  at  the 
mouth  of  a  sweet-jar. 

And  up,  up  the  hill  come  the  people,  with  ticklers 

235 


Bank  Holiday 

and  golliwogs,  and  roses  and  feathers.  Up,  up 
'they  thrust  into  the  light  and  heat,  shouting,  laugh- 
ing, squealing,  as  though  they  were  being  pushed  by 
something,  far  below,  and  by  the  sun,  far  ahead 
of  them — drawn  up  into  the  full,  bright,  dazzling 
radiance  to  .  .  .  what? 


a^6 


AN  IDEAL  FAMILY 

THAT  evening  for  the  first  time  in  his  life,  as 
he  pressed  through  the  swing  door  and  de- 
scended the  three  broad  steps  to  the  pave- 
ment, old  Mr.  Neave  felt  he  was  too  old  for  the 
spring.  Spring — warm,  eager,  restless — ^was  there, 
waiting  for  him  in  the  golden  light,  ready  in  front 
of  everybody  to  run  up,  to  blow  in  his  white  beard, 
to  drag  sweetly  on  his  arm.  And  he  couldn't  meet 
her,  no;  he  couldn't  square  up  once  more  and  stride 
off,  jaunty  as  a  young  man.  He  was  tired  and, 
although  the  late  sun  was  still  shining,  curiously 
cold,  with  a  numbed  feeling  all  over.  Quite  sud- 
denly he  hadn't  the  energy,  he  hadn't  the  heart  to 
stand  this  gaiety  and  bright  movement  any  longer; 
it  confused  him.  He  wanted  to  stand  still,  to  wave 
it  away  with  his  stick,  to  say,  *'Be  off  with  you!" 
Suddenly  It  was  a  terrible  effort  to  greet  as  usual — 
tipping  his  wide-awake  with  his  stick — all  the  people 
whom  he  knew,  the  friends,  acquaintances,  shop- 
keepers, postmen,  drivers.  But  the  gay  glance  that 
went  with  the  gesture,  the  kindly  twinkle  that 
seemed  to  say,  ^'I'm  a  match  and  more  for  any  of 
you" — that  old  Mr.  Neave  could  not  manage  at 
all.  He  stumped  along,  lifting  his  knees  high  as 
if  he  were  walking  through  air  that  had  somehow 

237 


An  Ideal  Family 

grown  heavy  and  solid  like  water.  And  the  home- 
ward-going crowd  hurried  by,  the  trams  clanked, 
the  light  carts  clattered,  the  big  swinging  cabs 
bowled  along  with  that  reckless,  defiant  indifference 
that  one  knows  only  in  dreams.  .  .  . 

It  had  been  a  day  like  other  days  at  the  office. 
Nothing  special  had  happened.  Harold  hadn't 
come  back  from  lunch  until  close  on  four.  Where 
had  he  been?  What  had  he  been  up  to?  He 
wasn't  going  to  let  his  father  know.  Old  Mr.. 
Ncave  had  happened  to  be  in  the  vestibule,  saying 
good-bye  to  a  caller,  when  Harold  sauntered  in, 
perfectly  turned  out  as  usual,  cool,  suave,  smiling 
that  peculiar  little  half-smile  that  women  found  so 
fascinating. 

Ah,  Harold  was  too  handsome,  too  handsome  by 
far;  that  had  been  the  trouble  all  along.  No  man 
had  a  right  to  such  eyes,  such  lashes,  and  such  lips; 
it  was  uncanny.  As  for  his  mother,  his  sisters,  and 
the  servants,  it  was  not  too  much  to  say  they  made 
a  young  god  of  him;  they  worshipped  Harold,  they 
forgave  him  everything;  and  he  had  needed  some 
forgiving  ever  since  the  time  when  he  was  thirteen 
and  he  had  stolen  his  mother's  purse,  taken  the 
money,  and  hidden  the  purse  in  the  cook's  bedroom. 
Old  Mr.  Neave  struck  sharply  with  his  stick  upon 
the  pavement  edge.  But  it  wasn't  only  his  family 
who  spoiled  Harold,  he  reflected,  it  was  every- 
body; he  had  only  to  look  and  to  smile,  and  down 
they  went  before  him.     So  perhaps  it  wasn't  to  be 

238 


An  Ideal  Family 

wondered  at  that  he  expected  the  office  to  carry  on 
the  tradition.  H'm,  h'm !  But  it  couldn't  be  done. 
No  business — not  even  a  successful,  established,  big 
paying  concern — could  be  played  with.  A  man  had 
either  to  put  his  whole  heart  and  soul  into  it,  or  it 
went  all  to  pieces  before  his  eyes.  .  .  . 

And  then  Charlotte  and  the  girls  were  always  at 
him  to  make  the  whole  thing  over  to  Harold,  to  re- 
tire, and  to  spend  his  time  enjoying  himself.  En- 
joying himself!  Old  Mr.  Neave  stopped  dead 
under  a  group  of  ancient  cabbage  palms  outside  the 
Government  buildings!  Enjoying  himself!  The 
wind  of  evening  shook  the  dark  leaves  to  a  thin 
airy  cackle.  Sitting  at  home,  twiddling  his  thumbs, 
conscious  all  the  while  that  his  life's  work  was  slip- 
ping away,  dissolving,  disappearing  through  Har- 
old's fine  fingers,  while  Harold  smiled.  .  .  . 

*'Why  will  you  be  so  unreasonable,  father? 
There's  absolutely  no  need  for  you  to  go  to  the 
office.  It  only  makes  it  very  awkward  for  us  when 
people  persist  in  saying  how  tired  you're  looking. 
Here's  this  huge  house  and  garden.  Surely  you 
could  be  happy  in — in — appreciating  it  for  a  change. 
Or  you  could  take  up  some  hobby." 

And  Lola  the  baby  had  chimed  in  loftily,  "All 
men  ought  to  have  hobbies.  It  makes  life  impos- 
sible if  they  haven't." 

Well,  well!  He  couldn't  help  a  grim  smile  as 
painfully  he  began  to  climb  the  hill  that  led  into 
Harcourt  Avenue.     Where   would  Lola   and  her 

239 


An  Ideal  Family 

sisters  and  Charlotte  be  if  he'd  gone  in  for  hobbies, 
he'd  like  to  know?  Hobbies  couldn't  pay  for  the 
town  house  and  the  seaside  bungalow,  and  their 
horses,  and  their  golf,  and  the  sixty-guinea  gram- 
ophone in  the  music-room  for  them  to  dance  to. 
Not  that  he  grudged  them  these  things.  No,  they 
were  smart,  good-looking  girls,  and  Charlotte  was 
a  remarkable  woman;  it  was  natural  for  them  to  be 
in  the  swim.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  no  other  house 
in  the  town  was  as  popular  as  theirs;  no  othef 
family  entertained  so  much.  And  how  many  times 
old  Mr.  Neave,  pushing  the  cigar  box  across  the 
smoking-room  table,  had  listened  to  praises  of  his 
wife,  his  girls,  of  himself  even. 

*Tou're  an  ideal  family,  sir,  an  Ideal  family. 
It's  like  something  one  reads  about  or  sees  on  the 
stage." 

"That's  all  right,  my  boy,"  old  Mr.  Neave  would 
reply.  *'Try  one  of  those;  I  think  you'll  like  them. 
And  if  you  care  to  smoke  in  the  garden,  you'll  find 
the  girls  on  the  lawn,  I  dare  say." 

That  was  why  the  girls  had  never  married,  so 
people  said.  They  could  have  married  anybody. 
But  they  had  too  good  a  time  at  home.  They  were 
too  happy  together,  the  girls  and  Charlotte.  H'm, 
h'm!     Well,  well!     Perhaps  so.  .  .  . 

By  this  time  he  had  walked  the  length  of  fashion- 
able Harcourt  Avenue;  he  had  reached  the  corner 
house,  their  house.  The  carriage  gates  were  pushed 
back;  there  were  fresh  marks  of  wheels  on  the  drive. 

240 


An  Ideal  Family 

And  then  he  faced  the  big  white-painted  house,  with 
its  wide-open  windows,  its  tulle  curtains  floating  out- 
wards, its  blue  jars  of  hyacinths  on  the  broad  sills. 
On  either  side  of  the  carriage  porch  their  hydran- 
geas— famous  in  the  town — were  coming  into 
flower;  the  pinkish,  bluish  masses  of  flower  lay  like 
light  among  the  spreading  leaves.  And  somehow, 
it  seemed  to  old  Mr.  Neave  that  the  house  and  the 
flowers,  and  even  the  fresh  marks  on  the  drive,  were 
saying,  "There  is  young  life  here.  There  are 
girls " 

The  hall,  as  always,  was  dusky  with  wraps,  para- 
sols, gloves,  piled  on  the  oak  chests.  From  the 
music-room  sounded  the  piano,  quick,  loud  and  im- 
patient. Through  the  drawing-room  door  that  was 
ajar  voices  floated. 

"And  were  there  ices?"  came  from  Charlotte. 
Then  the  creak,  creak  of  her  rocker. 

"Ices!"  cried  Ethel.  "My  dear  mother,  you 
never  saw  such  ices.  Only  two  kinds.  And  one  a 
common  little  strawberry  shop  ice,  in  a  sopping  wet 
frill." 

"The  food  altogether  was  too  appalling,"  came 
from  Marion. 

"Still,  it's  rather  early  for  ices,"  said  Charlotte 
easily. 

"But  why.  If  one  has  them  at  all  .  .  ."  began 
Ethel. 

"Oh,  quite  so,  darling,"  crooned  Charlotte. 

Suddenly  the  music-room  door  opened  and  Lola 
241 


An  Ideal  Family 

dashed  out.  She  started,  she  nearly  screamed,  at 
the  sight  of  old  Mr.  Neave. 

^'Gracious,  father!  What  a  fright  you  gave  me! 
Have  you  just  come  home?  Why  isn't  Charles 
here  to  help  you  off  with  your  coat?'* 

Her  cheeks  were  crimson  from  playing,  her  eyes 
glittered,  the  hair  fell  over  her  forehead.  And 
she  breathed  as  though  she  had  come  running 
through  the  dark  and  was  frightened.  Old  Mr. 
Neave  stared  at  his  youngest  daughter;  he  felt  he 
had  never  seen  her  before.  So  that  was  Lola,  was 
it?  But  she  seemed  to  have  forgotten  her  father; 
it  was  not  for  him  that  she  was  waiting  there.  Now 
she  put  the  tip  of  her  crumpled  handkerchief  be- 
tween her  teeth  and  tugged  at  it  angrily.  The  tele- 
phone rang.  A-ah!  Lola  gave  a  cry  like  a  sob 
and  dashed  past  him.  The  door  of  the  telephone- 
room  slammed,  and  at  the  same  moment  Charlotte 
called,  "Is  that  you,  father?" 

'Tou're  tired  again,"  said  Charlotte  reproach- 
fully, and  she  stopped  the  rocker  and  offered  him 
her  warm  plum-like  cheek.  Bright-haired  Ethel 
pecked  his  beard;  Marion's  lips  brushed  his  ear. 

"Did  you  walk  back,  father?"  asked  Charlotte. 

"Yes,  I  w^alked  home,"  said  old  Mr.  Neave,  and 
he  sank  into  one  of  the  immense  drawing-room 
chairs. 

"But  why  didn't  you  take  a  cab?"  said  Ethel. 
"There  are  hundreds  of  cabs  about  at  that  time." 

"My  dear  Ethel,"  cried  Marion,  "if  father  pre- 
242 


An  Ideal  Family 

fers  to  tire  himself  out,  I  really  don't  see  what  busi- 
ness of  ours  it  is  to  interfere." 

''Children,  children?"  coaxed  Charlotte. 

But  Marlon  wouldn't  be  stopped.  **No,  mother, 
you  spoil  father,  and  it's  not  right.  You  ought  to 
be  stricter  with  him.  He's  very  naughty."  She 
laughed  her  hard,  bright  laugh  and  patted  her  hair 
in  a  mirror.  Strange  1  When  she  was  a  little  girl 
she  had  such  a  soft,  hesitating  voice;  she  had  even 
stuttered,  and  now,  whatever  she  said — even  if  it 
was  only  "Jam,  please,  father" — it  rang  out  as 
though  she  were  on  the  stage. 

"Did  Harold  leave  the  office  before  you,  dear?" 
asked  Charlotte,  beginning  to  rock  again. 

"I'm  not  sure,"  said  old  Mr.  Neave.  'Tm  not 
sure.     I  didn't  see  him  after  four  o'clock." 

"He  said "  began  Charlotte. 

But  at  that  moment  Ethel,  who  was  twitching 
over  the  leaves  of  some  paper  or  other,  ran  to  her 
mother  and  sank  down  beside  her  chair. 

"There,  you  see,"  she  cried.  "That's  what  I 
mean,  mummy.  Yellow,  with  touches  of  silver. 
Don't  you  agree?" 

"Give  it  to  me,  love,"  said  Charlotte.  She  fum- 
bled for  her  tortoise-shell  spectacles  and  put 
them  on,  gave  the  page  a  little  dab  with  her  plump 
small  fingers,  and  pursed  up  her  lips.  "Very 
sweet!"  she  crooned  vaguely;  she  looked  at  Ethel 
over  her  spectacles.     "But  I   shouldn't  have   the 


train." 


243 


An  Ideal  Family 

"Not  the  train!"  walled  Ethel  tragically.  ''But 
the  train's  the  whole  point." 

"Here,  mother,  let  me  decide."  Marion 
snatched  the  paper  playfully  from  Charlotte.  "I 
agree  with  mother,"  she  cried  triumphantly.  "The 
train  overweights  it." 

Old  Mr.  Neave,  forgotten,  sank  into  the  broad 
lap  of  his  chair,  and,  dozing,  heard  them  as  though 
he  dreamed.  There  was  no  doubt  about  it,  he  was 
tired  out;  he  had  lost  his  hold.  Even  Charlotte 
and  the  girls  were  too  much  for  him  to-night.  They 
were  too  .  .  .  too.  .  .  .  But  all  his  drowsing  brain 
could  think  of  was — too  rich  for  him.  And  some- 
where at  the  back  of  everything  he  was  watching 
a  little  withered  ancient  man  climbing  up  endless 
flights  of  stairs.     Who  was  he? 

"I  shan't  dress  to-night,"  he  muttered. 

"What  do  you  say,  father?" 

"Eh,  what,  what?"  Old  Mr.  Neave  woke  with 
a  start  and  stared  across  at  them.  "I  shan't  dress 
to-night,"  he  repeated. 

"But,  father,  we've  got  Lucile  coming,  and  Henry 
Davenport,  and  Mrs.  Teddle  Walker." 

"It  will  look  so  very  out  of  the  picture." 

"Don't  you  feel  well,  dear?" 

"You  needn't  make  any  effort.  What  Is  Charles 
forr 

"But  If  you're  really  not  up  to  It,"  Charlotte 
wavered. 

"Very  well !  Very  well !"  Old  Mr.  Neave  got 
244 


An  Ideal  Family 

up  and  went  to  join  that  little  old  climbing  fellow 
just  as  far  as  his  dressing-room.   .  .   . 

There  young  Charles  was  waiting  for  him. 
Carefully,  as  though  everything  depended  on  it,  he 
was  tucking  a  towel  round  the  hot-water  can. 
Young  Charles  had  been  a  favourite  of  his  ever  since 
as  a  little  red-faced  boy  he  had  come  into  the  house 
to  look  after  the  fires.  Old  Mr.  Neave  lowered 
himself  into  the  cane  lounge  by  the  window, 
stretched  out  his  legs,  and  made  his  little  evening 
joke,  "Dress  him  up,  Charles!"  And  Charles, 
breathing  intensely  and  frowning,  bent  forward  to 
take  the  pin  out  of  his  tie. 

H'm,  h'm!  Well,  well!  It  was  pleasant  by  the 
open  window,  very  pleasant — a  fine  mild  evening. 
They  were  cutting  the  grass  on  the  tennis  court 
below;  he  heard  the  soft  churr  of  the  mower.  Soon 
the  girls  would  begin  their  tennis  parties  again. 
And  at  the  thought  he  seemed  to  hear  Marion's 
voice  ring  out,  "Good  for  you,  partner.  .  .  .  Oh, 
played,  partner.  .  .  .  Oh,  very  nice  indeed." 
Then  Charlotte  calling  from  the  veranda, 
"Where  is  Harold?"  And  Ethel,  "He's  certainly 
not  here,  mother."  And  Charlotte's  vague,  "He 
said " 

Old  Mr.  Neave  sighed,  got  up,  and  putting  one 
hand  under  his  beard,  he  took  the  comb  from  young 
Charles,  and  carefully  combed  the  white  beard  over. 
Charles  gave  him  a  folded  handkerchief,  his  watch 
and  seals,  and  spectacle  case. 

24s 


An  Ideal  Family 

*'That  will  do,  my  lad."  The  door  shut,  he  sank 
back,  he  was  alone.  .  .  . 

And  now  that  little  ancient  fellow  was  climbing 
down  endless  flights  that  led  to  a  glittering,  gay  din- 
ing-room. What  legs  he  had!  They  were  lijce  a 
spider's — thin,  withered. 

"You're  an  ideal  family,  sir,  an  ideal  family." 

But  if  that  were  true,  why  didn't  Charlotte  or 
the  girls  stop  him?  Why  was  he  all  alone,  climbing 
up  and  down?  Where  was  Harold?  Ah,  it  was 
no  good  expecting  anything  from  Harold.  Down, 
down  went  the  little  old  spider,  and  then,  to  his 
horror,  old  Mr.  Neave  saw  him  slip  past  the  dining- 
room  and  make  for  the  porch,  the  dark  drive,  the 
carriage  gates,  the  office.  Stop  him,  stop  him, 
somebody! 

Old  Mr.  Neave  started  up.  It  was  dark  in  his 
dressing-room;  the  window  shone  pale.  How  long 
had  he  been  asleep?  He  listened,  and  through  the 
big,  airy,  darkened  house  there  floated  far-away 
voices,  far-away  sounds.  Perhaps,  he  thought 
vaguely,  he  had  been  asleep  for  a  long  time.  He'd 
been  forgotten.  What  had  all  this  to  do  with  him 
— this  house  and  Charlotte,  the  girls  and  Harold — 
what  did  he  know  about  them?  They  were 
strangers  to  him.  Life  had  passed  him  by.  Char- 
lotte was  not  his  wife.     His  wife  I 

...  A  dark  porch,  half  hidden  by  a  passion- 
vine,  that  drooped  sorrowful,  mournful,  as  though 
it  understood.     Small,  warm  arms  were  round  his 

246 


An  Ideal  Family 

neck.  A  face,  little  and  pale,  lifted  to  his,  and  a 
voice  breathed,  *'Good-bye,  my  treasure.*' 

My  treasure!  "Goodbye,  my  treasure!"  Which 
of  them  had  spoken?  Why  had  they  said 
good-bye?  There  had  been  some  terrible  mistake. 
She  was  his  wife,  that  little  pale  girl,  and  all  the  rest 
of  his  life  had  been  a  dream. 

Then  the  door  opened,  and  young  Charles,  stand- 
ing In  the  light,  put  his  hands  by  his  side  and  shouted 
like  a  young  soldier,  "Dinner  Is  on  the  table,  sir !" 

"I'm  coming,  Fm  coming,"  said  old  Mr.  Neave. 


247 


THE  LADY'S  MAID 

Tf    \LEVEN  o'clock.     A  knock  at  the  door.  .  .  . 

AV  I  hope  I  haven't  disturbed  you,  madam. 
Ji — i  You  weren't  asleep — were  you?  But  Fvc 
just  given  my  lady  her  tea,  and  there  was  such  a  nice 
cup  over,  I  thought,  perhaps  .  .  . 

.  .  .  Not  at  all,  madam.  I  always  make  a  cup 
of  tea  last  thing.  She  drinks  it  in  bed  after  her 
prayers  to  warm  her  up.  I  put  the  kettle  on  when 
she  kneels  down  and  I  say  to  it,  "Now  you  needn't 
be  in  too  much  of  a  hurry  to  say  your  prayers." 
But  it's  always  boiling  before  my  lady  is  half 
through.  You  see,  madam,  we  know  such  a  lot  of 
people,  and  they've  all  got  to  be  prayed  for — every 
one.  My  lady  keeps  a  list  of  the  names  in  a  little 
^red  book.  Oh  dear!  whenever  some  one  new  has 
been  to  see  us  and  my  lady  says  afterwards,  "Ellen, 
give  me  my  little  red  book,"  I  feel  quite  wild,  I  do. 
"There's  another,"  I  think,  "keeping  her  out  of 
her  bed  in  all  weathers."  And  she  won't  have  a 
cushion,  you  know,  madam;  she  kneels  on  the  hard 
carpet.  It  fidgets  me  something  dreadful  to  see 
her,  knowing  her  as  I  do.  I've  tried  to  cheat  her; 
IVe  spread  out  the  eiderdown.  But  the  first  time 
I  did  it — oh,  she  gave  me  such  a  look — holy  it  was, 
madam.     "Did    our    Lord    have    an    eiderdown, 

248 


The  Lady's  Maid 

Ellen?"  she  said.  But — I  was  younger  at  the  time 
— I  felt  inclined  to  say,  "No,  but  our  Lord  wasn't 
your  age,  and  he  didn't  know  what  it  was  to  have 
your  lumbago."  Wicked — wasn't  It?  But  she's 
too  good,  you  know,  madam.  When  I  tucked  her 
up  just  now  and  seen — saw  her  lying  back,  her 
hands  outside  and  her  head  on  the  pillow — so 
pretty — I  couldn't  help  thinking,  "Now  you  look 
just  like  your  dear  mother  when  I  laid  her  out  I" 

.  .  .  Yes,  madam,  it  was  all  left  to  me.  Oh,  she 
did  look  sweet.  I  did  her  hair,  soft-like,  round 
her  forehead,  all  In  dainty  curls,  and  just  to  one 
side  of  her  neck  I  put  a  bunch  of  most  beautiful 
purple  pansies.  Those  pansies  made  a  picture  of 
her,  madam!  I  shall  never  forget  them.  I 
thought  to-night,  when  I  looked  at  my  lady,  "Now, 
if  only  the  pansies  was  there  no  one  could  tell  the 
difference." 

.  .  .  Only  the  last  year,  madam.  Only  after 
she'd  got  a  little — ^well — feeble  as  you  might  say. 
Of  course,  she  was  never  dangerous;  she  was  the 
sweetest  old  lady.  But  how  It  took  her  was — she 
thought  she'd  lost  something.  She  couldn't  keep 
still,  she  couldn't  settle.  All  day  long  she'd  be  up 
and  down,  up  and  down;  you'd  meet  her  every- 
where— on  the  stairs,  in  the  porch,  making  for  the 
kitchen.  And  she'd  look  up  at  you,  and  she'd  say 
— ^just  like  a  child,  "I've  lost  it,  I've  lost  It." 
"Come  along,"  I'd  say,  "come  along,  and  I'll  lay 
out  your  patience  for  you."     But  she'd  catch  me 

249 


The  Lady's  Maid 

by  the  hand — I  was  a  favourite  of  hers — and  whis- 
per, *'Find  it  for  me,  Ellen.  Find  it  for  me."  Sad, 
wasn't  It? 

.  .  .  No,  she  never  recovered,  madam.  She 
had  a  stroke  at  the  end.     Last  words  she  ever  said 

was — very    slow,    "Look    In — the Look — In 

"     And  then  she  was  gone. 

.  .  .  No,  madam,  I  can't  say  I  noticed  It.  Per- 
haps some  girls.  But  you  see,  it's  like  this,  I've  got 
nobody  but  my  lady.  My  mother  died  of  consump- 
tion when  I  was  four,  and  I  lived  with  my  grand- 
father, who  kept  a  hair-dresser's  shop.  I  used  to 
spend  all  my  time  in  the  shop  under  a  table  dress- 
ing my  doll's  hair — copying  the  assistants,  I  sup* 
pose.  They  were  ever  so  kind  to  me.  Used  to 
make  me  little  wigs,  all  colours,  the  latest  fashions 
and  all.  And  there  Fd  sit  all  day,  quiet  as  quiet — 
the  customers  never  knew.  Only  now  and  again 
Fd  take  my  peep  from  under  the  table-cloth. 

.  .  .  But  one  day  I  managed  to  get  a  pair  of 
scissors  and — ^would  you  believe  it,  madam?  I  cut 
off  all  my  hair ;  snipped  it  off  all  in  bits,  like  the  little 
monkey  I  was.  Grandfather  was  furious!  He 
caught  hold  of  the  tongs — I  shall  never  forget  It — 
grabbed  me  by  the  hand  and  shut  my  fingers  In 
them.  "That'll  teach  you  I"  he  said.  It  was  a 
fearful  burn.     I've  got  the  mark  of  it  to-day. 

.  .  .  Well,  you  see,  madam,  he'd  taken  such 
pride  in  my  hair.  He  used  to  sit  me  up  on  the  coun- 
ter, before  the  customers  came,  and  do  It  something 

250 


The  Lady's  Maid 

beautiful — ^big,  soft  curls  and  waved  over  the  top. 
I  remember  the  assistants  standing  round,  and  me 
ever  so  solemn  with  the  penny  grandfather  gave  me 
to  hold  while  it  was  being  done.  .  .  .  But  he  always 
took  the  penny  back  afterwards.  Poor  grandfather  I 
Wild,  he  was,  at  the  fright  Fd  made  of  myself. 
But  he  frightened  me  that  time.  Do  you  know 
what  I  did,  madam?  I  ran  away.  Yes,  I  did, 
round  the  corners,  in  and  out,  I  don't  know  how 
far  I  didn't  run.  Oh,  dear,  I  must  have  looked  a 
sight,  with  my  hand  rolled  up  in  my  pinny  and  my 
hair  sticking  out.  People  must  have  laughed  when 
they  saw  me.  .  .  . 

.  .  .  No,  madam,  grandfather  never  got  over  it. 
He  couldn't  bear  the  sight  of  me  after.  Couldn't 
eat  his  dinner,  even,  if  I  was  there.  So  my  aunt 
took  me.  She  was  a  cripple,  an  upholstress. 
Tiny!  She  had  to  stand  on  the  sofas  when  she 
wanted  to  cut  out  the  backs.  And  it  was  helping 
her  I  met  my  lady.  .  .  . 

.  .  .  Not  so  very,  madam.  I  was  thirteen, 
turned.  And  I  don't  remember  ever  feeling — ^well 
— a  child,  as  you  might  say.  You  see  there  was  my 
uniform,  and  one  thing  and  another.  My  lady  put 
me  into  collars  and  cuffs  from  the  first.  Oh  yes — 
once  I  did!  That  was — funny!  It  was  like  this. 
My  lady  had  her  two  little  nieces  staying  with  her — 
we  were  at  Sheldon  at  the  time — and  there  was  a 
fair  on  the  common. 

"Now,  Ellen,"  she  said,  "I  want  you  to  take  the 
2CI 


The  Lady's  Maid 

two  young  ladies  for  a  ride  on  the  donkeys."  Oft 
we  went;  solemn  little  loves  they  were;  each  had  a 
hand.  But  when  we  came  to  the  donkeys  they  were 
too  shy  to  go  on.  So  we  stood  and  watched  instead. 
Beautiful  those  donkeys  were !  They  were  the  first 
Vd  seen  out  of  a  cart — for  pleasure  as  you 
might  say.  They  were  a  lovely  silver-grey,  with 
little  red  saddles  and  blue  bridles  and  bells  jing-a- 
jingling  on  their  ears.  And  quite  big  girls — older 
than  me,  even — ^werc  riding  them,  ever  so  gay. 
Not  at  all  common,  I  don't  mean,  madam,  just  en- 
joying themselves.  And  I  don't  know  what  it  was, 
but  the  way  the  little  feet  went,  and  the  eyes — so 
gentle — and  the  soft  ears — made  me  want  to  go  on 
a  donkey  more  than  anything  in  the  world! 

...  Of  course,  I  couldn't.  I  had  my  young 
ladies.  And  what  would  I  have  looked  like  perched 
up  there  in  my  uniform?  But  all  the  rest  of  the 
day  it  was  donkeys — donkeys  on  the  brain  with  me. 
I  felt  I  should  have  burst  if  I  didn't  tell  some  one; 
and  who  was  there  to  tell?  But  when  I  went  to  bed 
— I  was  sleeping  in  Mrs.  James's  bedroom,  our 
cook  that  was,  at  the  time — as  soon  as  the  lights 
was  out,  there  they  were,  my  donkeys,  jingling  along, 
with  their  neat  little  feet  and  sad  eyes.  .  .  .  Well, 
madam,  would  you  believe  it,  I  waited  for  a  long 
time  and  pretended  to  be  asleep,  and  then  suddenly 
I  sat  up  and  called  out  as  loud  as  I  could,  '7  do  want 
to  go  on  a  donkey,  I  do  want  a  donkey-ridef** 
You  sec,  I  had  to  say  it,  and  I  thought  they  wouldn't 

2C2 


The  Lady's  Maid 

laugh  at  me  if  they  knew  I  was  only  dreaming.  Art- 
ful— wasn't  It?  Just  what  a  silly  child  would 
think.   .  .  , 

.  .  .  No,  madam,  never  now.  Of  course,  I  did 
think  of  It  at  one  time.  But  it  wasn't  to  be.  He 
had  a  little  flower-shop  just  down  the  road  and 
across  from  where  we  was  living.  Funny — wasn't 
it?  And  me  such  a  one  for  flowers.  We  were  hav- 
ing a  lot  of  company  at  the  time,  and  I  was  in  and 
out  of  the  shop  more  often  than  not,  as  the  saying  is. 
And  Harry  and  I  (his  name  was  Harry)  got  to 
quarrelling  about  how  things  ought  to  be  arranged 
— and  that  began  it.  Flowers !  you  wouldn't  believe 
it,  madam,  the  flowers  he  used  to  bring  me.  He'd 
stop  at  nothing.  It  was  lllles-of-the-valley  more 
than  once,  and  I'm  not  exaggerating  I  Well,  of 
course,  we  were  going  to  be  married  and  live  over 
the  shop,  and  It  was  all  going  to  be  just  so,  and  I 
was  to  have  the  window  to  arrange.  .  .  .  Oh,  how 
I've  done  that  window  of  a  Saturday  I  Not  really, 
of  course,  madam,  just  dreaming,  as  you  might  say. 
I've  done  It  for  Christmas — motto  in  holly,  and  all 
— and  I've  had  my  Easter  lilies  with  a  gorgeous  star 
all  daffodils  in  the  middle.  I've  hung — ^well,  that's 
enough  of  that.  The  day  came  he  was  to  call  for 
me  to  choose  the  furniture.  Shall  I  ever  forget  it? 
It  was  a  Tuesday.  My  lady  wasn't  quite  herself 
that  afternoon.  Not  that  she'd  said  anything,  of 
course ;  she  never  does  or  will.  But  I  knew  by  the 
way  that  she  kept  wrapping  herself  up  and  asking 

253 


The  Lady's  Maid 

me  if  it  was  cold — and  her  little  nose  looked  .  .  . 
pinched.  I  didn't  like  leaving  her;  I  knew  I'd  be 
worrying  all  the  time.  At  last  I  asked  her  if  she'd 
rather  I  put  it  off.  "Oh  no,  Ellen,"  she  said,  *'you 
mustn't  mind  about  me.  You  mustn't  disappoint 
your  young  man."  And  so  cheerful,  you  know, 
madam,  never  thinking  about  herself.  It  made  me 
feel  worse  than  ever.  I  began  to  wonder  .  .  . 
then  she  dropped  her  handkerchief  and  began  to 
stoop  down  to  pick  it  up  herself — a  thing  she  never 
did.  ^'Whatever  are  you  doing  I"  I  cried,  running 
to  stop  her.  'Well,"  she  said,  smiling,  you  know, 
madam,  "I  shall  have  to  begin  to  practise."  Oh,  it 
was  all  I  could  do  not  to  burst  out  crying.  I  went 
over  to  the  dressing-table  and  made  believe  to  rub 
up  the  silver,  and  I  couldn't  keep  myself  in,  and  I 
asked  her  if  she'd  rather  I  .  .  .  didn't  get  married. 
*'No,  Ellen,"  she  said — that  was  her  voice,  madam, 
like  I'm  giving  you — *'No,  Ellen,  not  for  the  wide 
world!**  But  while  she  said  it,  madam — I  was  look- 
ing in  her  glass;  of  course,  she  didn't  know  I  could 
see  her — she  put  her  little  hand  on  her  heart  just 
like  her  dear  mother  used  to,  and  lifted  her  eyes. 
.  .  .  Oh,  madam! 

When  Harry  came  I  had  his  letters  all  ready,  and 
the  ring  and  a  ducky  little  brooch  he'd  given  me — a 
silver  bird  it  was,  with  a  chain  in  its  beak,  and  on  the 
end  of  the  chain  a  heart  with  a  dagger.  Quite  the 
thing !  I  opened  the  door  to  him.  I  never  gave  him 
time  for  a  word.     "There  you  are,"  I  said.     "Take 

254 


The  Lady's  Maid 

them  all  back,"  I  said,  *'it's  all  over.  I'm  not  going 
to  marry  you,"  I  said,  "I  can't  leave  my  lady." 
White  I  he  turned  as  white  as  a  woman.  I  had  to 
slam  the  door,  and  there  I  stood,  all  of  a  tremble, 
till  I  knew  he  had  gone.  When  I  opened  the  door 
— believe  me  or  not,  madam — that  man  was  gone ! 
I  ran  out  into  the  road  just  as  I  was,  in  my  apron 
and  my  house-shoes,  and  there  I  stayed  in  the  middle 
of  the  road  .  .  .  staring.  People  must  have 
laughed  if  they  saw  me.  .  .  . 

.  .  ,  Goodness  gracious  I — ^What's  that?  It's 
the  clock  striking!  And  here  I've  been  keeping  you 
awake.  Oh,  madam,  you  ought  to  have  stopped  me. 
.  .  .  Can  I  tuck  in  your  feet  ?  I  always  tuck  in  my 
lady's  feet,  every  night,  just  the  same.  And  she 
says,  **Good  night,  Ellen.  Sleep  sound  and  wake 
early !"  I  don't  know  what  I  should  do  if  she  didn't 
say  that,  now. 

.  .  .  Oh  dear,  I  sometimes  think  .  .  .  whatever 
should  I  do  if  anything  were  to  .  .  .  But,  there, 
thinking's  no  good  to  any  one — is  it,  madam? 
Thinking  won't  help.  Not  that  I  do  it  often.  And 
if  ever  I  do  I  pull  myself  up  sharp,  "Now,  then, 
Ellen.  At  it  again — you  silly  girl !  If  you  can't  find 
anything  better  to  do  than  to  start  thinking!  .  .  ." 


255 


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